The Blood of My Friends — An Opinion by Andrew Jordan

I didn’t like something about yesterday.

I want to begin by making it perfectly clear that donating blood has the ability to play a role in saving somebody’s life, and that I am a staunch supporter of donation and blood drives. I believe they are a great way to get ahold of a very viable source of blood, and have the ability to have a measurable impact in transfusion ability.

But yesterday made me feel odd.

After thinking about it for a few hours, I finally realized what it was:

The stigma of not donating blood.

 I remember when I had just turned 16, and how proud I felt that I was finally able to play a role in saving somebody’s life. But as my senior year turns, I start to notice blemishes and flaws within my beloved blood drive.

The phrase was rammed into my ears, and smeared across our school: “BLOOD DRIVE TODAY.” It can be assured that any student who did not know that the Community Blood Center was visiting to take donations was informed upon their arrival at their poster-plastered locker. If that wasn’t enough, this naïve student would have been greeted by the smiling faces of fellow students wearing blood-drop costumes, and (honestly fantastic) vampire outfits.

That is the scene that greeted me as I entered the school, and it’s exactly what today should have been about. It informed those who had not known about the blood drive, and provided an atmosphere of celebration for those who were going to donate.

But it wasn’t until about lunch time that that welcoming atmosphere decayed, and the earlier mentioned stigma became apparent.

The ravens nest, home to those able to donate according to age restrictions, were patrolled with stern faces and peer pressure. Roving groups of volunteers approached each table and questioned every senior without a blue armband – the sign of donation. At first a smile, which slowly wilted into the question of: “Are you going to donate today?” which is a very reasonable question aimed at those unaware of the drive.

Then it turned ugly.

If that armband-less student provided anything less than their appointment time, the follow-up question soon was slammed onto the captive senior: “Why aren’t you donating?”

That’s what makes me angry.

To begin with, there are legitimate reasons for a person abstaining from donation where they would otherwise be perfectly able to. Some students may have strenuous work scheduled after school, where donation would put them at risk. Or, that student holds a phobia of the aspect of donation (which I will talk about later.) And, while I do not doubt the safety precautions taken by the workers of CBC, some students may question the safety of a donation process that relies on the largest amount of donations processed in the least amount of time.

These students are not treated kindly by those roving gangs. Peer pressure and enforced stigmatism slams into that senior within an instant of them uttering “I just don’t want to.” They are bombarded with accusations. “Don’t you want to save a life?” “Why can’t you just get over it?”

That’s offensive.

When there is a money-drive to support a cause, we do not pass along the money jar and intimidate those who choose not to give a dollar. We don’t identify those who haven’t donated, and ask them “Why, too poor?”

But this is perceived differently during a blood drive – it is assumed that everybody has blood, so why wouldn’t they donate it? That’s where the problem lies.

This does not even address those who are unable to donate – students with genetic disorders, blood disease, long-term illnesses – even homosexual students are forced to relay their differences to this blood-donation-gang because otherwise they will face the negativity of their peers and anyone who sees their band-less arm. Students who are afraid of needles have their fears dismissed, and are encouraged to partake in something that makes them physically uncomfortable.  For having such a progressive school, it is impressive how quickly this can be dropped in the interest of a pint of blood.

I want to say that I do not dislike those students who have volunteered their time in order to increase our school’s blood drive success. I believe that their heart is in the right place, and every single one of those students is a caring person: I appreciate you. But an effort must be made to divert the focus of publicity away from those who haven’t donated, and instead appreciate those who have.

To those of you who did donate: thank you. To those of you who did not: you missed out on free cookies.