More than 20 years ago, if you’d asked Ashley Hopkins about donating blood, you may have gotten a cringe coupled with a shake of the head. While she’d grown up around blood donors and blood drives (her father was a firefighter, now fire captain), donating herself was never really an option.
“Back then I had a crazy fear of not even needles, but needles taking blood out — it just freaked me out so I never did it,” Ashley said.
So how did someone with a healthy fear of the blood donation process wind up a volunteer for the American Red Cross Blood Services and a regular donor?
“I went to volunteermatch.org and put in my zip code, and (blood services) came up as a flexible option with weekend availability.” So despite Ashley’s apprehensions, it was a perfect match, and as she’d soon find out, even more perfect than she’d initially thought.
Ashley started out working weekend blood drives. “I did a background check and then shadowed someone for a couple of blood drives and then I was on my own,” she said, noting that back in 2012 things were “a little bit different.”
At one of those blood drives at the Canfield fair (Ashley’s favorite blood drive), she was working a few days in a row with one specific blood rep who asked her why she’d never donated before.
“I don’t know, it just seemed kinda scary,” Ashley replied. But that same day she decided to roll up her sleeve and donate — on the bus at the fair, which Ashley highly recommends. “It is heaven,” she advocated.
When you donate blood, the Red Cross tests your blood. And that’s when Ashley found out how special hers was. “I did not know that they were testing for a specific allele (genetic information present in your DNA) in your blood that is an antibody.” After donating Ashley got an email saying that her blood was CMV negative, which is quite rare.
From RedCross.org: CMV is generally harmless to adults but can be fatal to babies. For this reason, babies needing transfusions as part of their medical care should only receive blood from donors who have not been exposed to CMV (CMV negative).
And being O positive, Ashley’s blood is even more special, as she’s compatible with roughly 80 percent of people who need blood! Even more of a reason for her to donate regularly — every 56 days, if she can.
When asked what she’d say to someone who is apprehensive about donating for the first time, especially someone who is nervous or scared, Ashley simply said, “Volunteer at a blood drive!” She said seeing it happen and helping with the process helped her overcome her fear of not just needles, but the whole process.
Find a blood drive near you here. And, learn about volunteer opportunities with the Red Cross here.