As you almost certainly know, blood is a very important part of the human body. It transports all kinds of stuff—oxygen, nutrients, waste products, hormones, diseases. All sorts. As you can see, blood is essential. You probably also know that anyone with, say, a chainsaw and a bit of bad luck can lose more than they would like. What you may not be aware of is the fact that the majority of the population actually requires a blood transfusion at least once at some point during their lifetime. And that's a lot of blood.
So, where does all that blood come from ? With all the scientific advances of the last few millennia, we still aren't able to create synthetic blood with a load of chemicals, and I doubt we will be any time soon, since human blood contains a lot of different living cells that would need to be properly grown. It just isn't that easy. So, obviously, all the blood given to those that need it has to be donated by healthy adults. Strong, healthy adults like you and me. That is why donating blood is important. That is why you should donate blood. Your donations could save lives.
The idea of donating blood scares a lot of people. Maybe you just don't like blood. Maybe you heard of some distant relative passing out after donating blood. Maybe, the last time they collected a blood sample for examination, your doctor's assistant failed to hit your vein five times before getting the stuff. Whatever your concerns may be, there really isn't anything to worry about. Almost all blood donations run smoothly. If you're a healthy, grown-up human being, you will almost certainly be able to cope with the blood loss. he amount of blood donated is 500ml; the average adult contains more than five litres of blood, meaning you'd typically lose less than 10%25 of your blood. Not that big a deal. The important thing to remember is that the people doing it, taking your blood, taking care of you, know what they're doing. The person sticking the needle into your vein will have done that many times before, there will be trained medics all over. You will be taken care of.
When you plan to donate blood, there are, of course, certain thing you need to pay attention to. You need time. Afterwards, you'll have to relax as much as possible. You need water. Make sure you drink a lot beforehand, and afterwards. Depending on how much you usually drink, add a litre or maybe two of non-alcoholic beverages and you'll be fine. Obviously, you should be well healthy, and you shouldn't be hungry either. As for who is allowed to donate, you have to be at least 18 years of age (there is an upper limit as well), and there has to be a certain gap between donations. In Germany, men may donate blood six times per year, women up to a maximum of four times. In the UK, you can donate about three times a year, I believe.
When I went to donate some of my blood not two weeks ago, I went to a local primary school, where the Bavarian Red Cross Blood Donation Service (BRK Blutspendedienst) was set up for the afternoon. In larger cities, there tend to be permanently open blood donation facilities, but I don't exactly live in a large city. So, I went in, showed my ID, and got a long list of yes/no questions to answer.
Are you feeling healthy ?,
Have you ever contracted Malaria ?,
Do you have HIV ?,
Are you pregnant ?—that kind of thing. When I had all of them answered, I had a doctor look over all of that, ask me a few questions, and explain what was going to happen, after which I went to the next desk, where the formalities were finalized, and got to lie down next to all the other donors. Everything was very well organized. Quick chat with a friendly medic, got a needle in my arm, waited ten minutes, done. I didn't even have to look at my blood, or anybody's blood, in fact. Half a litre of blood less pumping through my body, I was given a drink, told to stay put for a while, and then go outside, to the barbecue, and relax some more.
That's what you really need your time for. The formalities at the beginning can take up some time, sure, but you really shouldn't skip the relaxation afterwards. You almost certainly will feel a bit weak. I was told not to stand up for long periods of time. I, like most people, coped perfectly fine, but some people don't, maybe because they're having a bad day, or maybe because their organism simply is fragile. It's always best to stay on site for a bit, because, if something were to happen, you'd be helped. Where I was, everybody got a number stuck to their arm with which it would have been possible to easily find the donated blood in case you need it yourself, all of a sudden. Even if there were some problem, that wouldn't be a problem: everybody on site is a trained medic, there are always doctors there.
As I hope you can see, there really isn't anything to worry about. And remember, your donations could save lives. Ideally, you should donate blood as often as possible, make a commitment of increasing others' chances of survival. If you would like to share your experiences, please do. Below is a list of web sites that you might want to visit. If you know of an equivalent in your country, let me know and I'll add it to the list.