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This is another way you can help people wherever you are, not just in Texas. If you are afraid of needles, I guess there is no reason to read on. I have a weird phobia about veins, but I figure it’s not as important as someone’s life.

Lately I have been donating at Carter BloodCare because that’s where my volunteer group donates (Young Adult Volunteer Organization) and there’s one close to my house, plus you can make appointments online. They say they need 1,100 donations a day to meet the community’s needs.

I’ll walk you through a typical experience. You make an appointment, eat a good meal, drink lots of water, show up, and check in with the receptionist. He or she will give you some information to read, and then you wait, usually not very long. A phlebotomist takes you into a little private room, takes your vital signs, pricks your finger to test your hemoglobin, and sets up a computer for you to answer questions on. These are pretty personal questions, but they are just trying to make sure your blood is safe to use. (If your blood tests positive for any diseases, they will notify you.)

When you’re done, the phlebotomist takes you out to a bed and puts the needle in the arm of your choice. They take a few little vials of blood first for testing and then the bag starts to fill. They give you a roll of gauze or stress toy to squeeze every few seconds, and it’s over in no time. Then you get to sit in the canteen for a few minutes eating Oreos and drinking juice, Powerade, or water to replenish your fluids. Once you’re sure you feel okay, you can go.

You’re not supposed to smoke for 30 minutes or do any heavy lifting for 12 hours. I usually feel a little weak and sluggish for the rest of the day, so I don’t exercise or anything, but I usually feel pretty good the next day.

I have heard horror stories about blood squirting up in the air and bad bruises, but those were mostly at a certain Oklahoma-based organization, and I have never really had a bad experience. I almost passed out once, but the staff at Carter was very helpful and got me feeling better quickly. My husband pretty much always passes out, especially when he’s trying to race a firefighter. He always survives.

In order to donate, you have to be at least 16 years old and weigh 110 pounds. They won’t let you donate if you answer some of the questions a certain way, like if you’ve lived in Europe for more than 5 years or if you got a prison tat in the past year or something. If you have any questions, Carter’s FAQ are very useful.

You can also donate double-red blood, platelets, and plasma, but I haven’t tried those. You can donate platelets or plasma more often than blood, and donating double red cells takes a little bit longer.

And I have nothing against the Red Cross. I had great experiences there, too, and it was very similar. I have just been going to Carter lately.