By: Michelle Logan, Editorial Intern
May 29, marked the first day of my communications internship at the University of Maryland Medical Center. I had come home from my junior year at college with a resume crammed with journalistic experience and I felt ready to handle anything. Before my first day, I familiarized myself with the hospital’s target audience, I studied its social media pages and websites, I practiced numerous interviews and writing styles, I lined my closet with business casual attire — I felt fully equipped to talk the UMMC talk and walk the UMMC walk. However, nothing could have prepared me for an email the night before from my internship mentor: “You’ll be helping at the Red Cross blood drive in Gudelsky lobby of the main hospital, see you there!”
The first thought in my muddled head was “I didn’t sign up for this.” I had heard about blood drives at local events and grabbed my arm in illusory pain — I had been terrified of needles since the first time I received a booster shot and furiously threw my Cinderella Band-Aid at the doctor. The thought of simply being close to needles made my fingers quiver as I typed back, “Sounds great!” to my mentor and pressed “send.”
The morning of May 29 arrived, and I took deep breaths as I sat at a registration table to greet those giving blood. I faced away from the blood drive area, my thoughts calming down, and instead enjoyed conversing with those signing up. One UMMC doctor informed me it was his tenth time donating, while another explained how her husband and daughter donated with her every time. The stories I heard were enlightening, but none as impactful as a community member who walked in to see what the big event was.
“What’s this?” he asked as he peered down at a flyer that read, “Every 2 seconds someone in the U.S. needs blood.” He looked back up at me and exclaimed, “That’s a lot of people! Let’s give this a shot.” Spur of the moment, this man decided to donate blood. As he wrote his name on the sign-up sheet, I turned around and really took in my surroundings. I suddenly remembered my mom telling me how much blood she had lost while in the delivery room with my twin sister and me, and the needles behind me started to look less scary. In fact, they started to look like an opportunity to help a lot of people. I decided to give it a shot.
The weeks went by, but on June 16, I prepared for my internship a bit differently. I double-checked the appointment that I scheduled online. I ate a large iron-rich breakfast, and gulped down as much water as I could. I put on a comfortable shirt, packed my I.D., yelled at the butterflies in my stomach to calm down, and shaped my shuddering body into a confident stance as I marched out the door.
I once again walked into the Gudelsky lobby and to the registration table, but this time, I was on the other side. This time, I confirmed my online appointment and received a sticker, a number, and facts about donating. I then sat down with my sixth water bottle of the day in hand. When “73” was called, I looked at my number card and twitched. This was it.
A woman in blue scrubs led me into a small cubicle, where I answered questions about my health, travel history and medications. Then I had my temperature, blood pressure and pulse taken. I felt a sharp pinch and a squeeze as the woman pricked my finger to test my iron level, but she placed a bandage on it and I managed to not throw it this time.
Finally, the moment I agonized over was here, but it was far easier than I imagined. Another woman beckoned me out of my cubicle with a “hey girl, you ready?” and my shoulders began to relax as I followed a humming doctor to a reclining chair. As she brought me more water and took my arm, I looked around. To the right of me another doctor was telling a man about a video she watched online. Across from me a woman was squeezing her hand softly while reading a book. Though my doctor was preparing for the donation, she was telling me stories and asking questions. She kept me distracted, and I felt my stress slip away.
I only had two seconds of pain and eight minutes of arm pumping, but then it was over, and I was going to help up to three people. As the doctor placed a bandage around my arm I realized that I am always going to be afraid of needles. But if it means giving someone the gift of life, I am willing to tackle my fears.
If you have problems making an appointment, please email Katey Leiter at firstname.lastname@example.org with the time you want to give, and she will make the appointment for you.
All donors receive a $5 gift card good at any UMMC eatery, and will be entered into a drawing to win two tickets to an upcoming Orioles game.