I wasn't always able to give blood.
The first time I tried -- as a high school senior, many years ago -- I fainted after the finger stick to check my iron level.
I didn't even make it to the donor chair.
This was at a blood drive attended by many friends and classmates. I got teased about it and was embarrassed. For many years, I thought I wouldn't ever be able to give blood.
But one of my heroes, my Uncle Paul, was -- is -- a regular blood donor. He's quietly given nearly 28 gallons to his local blood bank.
It's a habit for him.
So, in 2000, nearly 25 years after my dismal high school experience, I noticed an MD Anderson blood drive being held at the University of Houston.
I decided to try again. And I succeeded.
Since then, giving blood has been a regular thing for me. I try to donate every quarter.
It comes down to this: sick and injured people need donated blood. There's no substitute for it.
A great way to spend an hour
Giving whole blood takes about an hour, but most of that time involves the screening before and monitoring after.
Once you're ushered into an exam room, you'll get a finger stick to check your iron level. You'll be asked if you're feeling well and will have your blood pressure and temperature taken.
Then you'll be asked a series of questions to determine whether you're eligible.
The actual donation takes about 10-15 minutes. The technicians are very skilled, so there's little discomfort.
If you've had a bad experience donating or trying to donate in the past, tell your technician. He or she can reassure you and talk you through it.
You'll probably be instructed to squeeze a foam ball every 3-5 seconds to keep the blood flowing.
As previously mentioned, I'm squeamish, so I never look at my arm, the needle or the collection bag.
Leaving the blood bank proud
After the donation, the technician will wrap your arm in a bandage, check that you're feeling well and offer you juice and snacks.
Before they let you go, they'll urge you to eat a big meal soon.
(When was the last time someone insisted that you treat yourself to a big meal?)
You'll be proud of yourself as you head out the door.
Find out more about MD Anderson's blood bank.
The Mays Clinic location is open Monday-Friday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Parking is validated on request. The Holly Hall location is open Monday-Friday, 10 a.m.-7 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Parking is free.