You will never feel as good as you do after you donate blood. Until you give blood, you will not know how much such a simple and quick act on your part means to so many people. Donating blood is the easiest way to "give back" to your community in the shortest amount of time. It is the best way to ensure that when you are in need, there will be a supply for you. It is one of the most life-affirming act of volunteering that does not require general anesthesia on your part!
Each unit of blood from a donor can save as many as three lives. People with type O negative blood are called "universal donors," and their blood can be given to almost anyone. Hospitals give O negative blood to newborn babies in need, as their urgency may be too time-sensitive for blood-typing. The blood supply in the United States generally runs extremely low. (see http://www.redcross.org/press/biomed/bm_pr/030114bloodshortage.html for more details.) Though everyone expects blood to be available if they need it, everyone can do their part to ensure a "healthy" blood supply.
You may donate blood every 56 days if you are over 17 years of age, weigh at least 110 pounds adn are in good health. The American Red Cross has blood donation centers around the United States. You may visit www.givelife.org to schedule an appointment.
On the day prior to your appointment, drink many extra fluids (non-caffeinated) and eat extra food. Continue this practice on the day of your appointment. When you arrive at the donation center, you will be greeted by a volunteer. As a first time donor, you will be handled especially carefully. You will read a booklet of information about blood donation and then be taken to a private screening room. There, a staff member will test your iron level, take your temperature and blood pressure level, and you will answer a series of questions to determine your eligibility. Once you are ready to donate, you will be asked your arm preference and prepped for donating. The actual donation portion takes about 5-10 minutes, after which you sit in the canteen and eat snacks and drink beverages, often donated by community businesses.
Throughout the entire process, Red Cross volunteers thank you-from the minute you walk in the door, to the minute you leave. The staff takes utmost care to keep you at ease and take care of you throughout the entire process. It is likely that unless you donate an organ, you will never be thanked as profusely and feel so good, on the inside, as you will after you donate blood.