In 2001, I was 8 years old and at a restaurant with my family when, without any warning, my mom passed out in the middle of the dining room. She was fine after a couple of minutes of deep breathing and drinking a glass of water, and we realized she had donated blood earlier that day but skipped lunch and sipped a glass of wine at dinner—two things blood centers advise never to do after donating. It was so scary seeing my mom unconscious and the memory still gives me chills, so I've never given blood—even though I carry O negative, the universal donor type used in emergency situations.
After speaking with supermodel Niki Taylor, though, I may be ready to overcome my fear. The same year that my mom fainted, Taylor was a passenger in a serious car accident and sustained injuries that left her needing over 100 units of blood. (The average person only holds 10 units of blood in their entire body.) The crash left her in a coma for almost three months, required more than 50 surgeries, and took over three years to recover from. Since then, she has always wondered who the volunteers were who supplied those initial 100 units. "That's why I wanted to get involved and raise awareness for blood donation," says Taylor, who is now the spokesperson for the Nexcare Give Campaign, a program by Nexcare Bandages and the American Red Cross to raise awareness about the importance of donating blood.
June is the beginning of summer, but it also marks a time when blood centers typically experience blood shortages. "People are busy with vacations and their kids' activities, and we're not thinking about donating blood," Taylor explains. "We're hoping everybody gets involved to make it a family event."
Taylor and her husband are ongoing donors and even explain the importance of blood donation to their two youngest children, who are 7 and 4 years old. A healthy individual who is at least 17 years old can give every 56 days, and with just one donation, a person can save up to three lives. "If you're afraid, I always have to think about the people who may have just found out they have cancer or a child who has leukemia and how they feel. Focus on the lives you're helping and saving rather than the needle," Taylor says. "It's just a pinch, it's over in a few minutes, and you're helping people."
Taylor is right: It is just a pinch, and one donation could save many lives. My mom and I recently talked about that strange night when she passed out and she mentioned my uncle is one of those few people who donates as often as he can. And why not, if it's as simple as eating a good meal beforehand, staying hydrated, and giving up a few minutes of your day? "Life is short," Taylor says. "My life changed in a matter of seconds when I was in that car accident. If you're contemplating a donation, just focus on the lives you're saving and how good of a thing it is."
Emily Elveru is an editorial assistant at Parents. When she isn't commuting between Brooklyn and Manhattan, she enjoys browsing bookstores for her next read, sipping lattes at local coffee shops, and playing tourist in the city she always imagined living in. Follow her adventures (both big and small) on Instagram.