The first time I learned about my grandfather’s commitment to donating blood was after I first gave blood at a drive at Edison High School when I was 16.
My mom signed the permission slip, and I went to the Red Cross bus to donate through a UCI Health program. When I got home, I was proud to show everyone the bandage on my arm and tell them about donating.
All in the family
That’s when I learned that my grandpa had been donating since he was 20 years old. He has O-negative blood, which can be donated to anybody, and he has an adaptation in his blood that helps some people, like newborns. That’s why he donated all his life.
When I gave blood at school the next year, I again showed everyone at home. My grandfather told me he’d donated 100 times. Soon we started going to the blood bank together. By 2016, we’d gone together three times when he was diagnosed with cancer and was disqualified from giving blood.
Grandpa started getting weak, and we were there for him. I was still donating blood every chance I got, even though my blood wasn’t going to him directly since mine is A-positive. Still, I felt good about being able to help out somebody like my grandpa.
How often can I donate?
Each of us is able to donate blood every 56 days, which is how long it takes for the body to restore its supply.
I try to plan my visit to the blood donor center between the 56th and 60th day so I can donate as much as possible.
I really like the staff at the Irvine blood donor center, which is in the student center on the UCI campus. One guy, Rodrigo, is always cracking jokes. They’re friendly and they give you snacks after you’re done — Gatorade in a can and a bag of Doritos.
I wait the recommended 15 minutes after donating, then I’m off.
Donating goes quickly
The whole process takes about a half hour — from completing the consent form, the interview, a blood test, a check of your heart rate and pulse. Then you sit in a lounge chair and they put a needle in your arm.
You can look away when they make the stab if you find it frightening. I did that the first 10 or 15 times. But then I wanted to see everything — I find it fascinating.
For me, it’s now like a race to see how long it takes my blood to flow out. The first time it took 15 minutes. I think my record is down to 4 minutes, 2 seconds. I want to get it down below 3 minutes.
I asked one of the workers who the fastest donating person is, and it turns out it’s the soccer team at UCI. They come in together and try to beat each other’s times. Their record is 3 minutes. I’m trying to match it — I’m a competitive guy.
A family record to uphold
I was scheduled to make my 31st donation in mid-December, but I got a cold. After waiting the required three days, I was back at it.
Sadly, my grandfather passed at the same time. He was 76. I plan to try to beat his record of 120 donations — maybe I’ll go for 140 to make it more competitive.
Donating blood isn’t something I find fun — it’s something bigger than me. You don’t know what is going to happen, but you just know that something good is going to happen because of it.
Derek Bahrami, 22, lives in Huntington Beach. He is working toward a degree in aviation science at Orange Coast College and is a student pilot.