By: Kyle McPhillips, student at Bay High School
Most of my life, I’ve known right from wrong. I’ve known things I should do, and I definitely have been taught things I shouldn’t. I’ve learned by watching my parents, sister, grandparents, cousins, friends, reading and just hearing stories. I’ve learned how to be a better person by watching and listening to people around me.
I often hear how great my Great-Grandpa Kowalski was, and how great the world would be if we were all like him. He was Papa to my mom and her brothers and sisters, and a hero and best friend, especially to my grandma and my Uncle Andrew. He was in the Army, served in the war, lived his life to serve others, and donated blood any chance he could. Over his lifetime, I was told he gave countless gallons of blood.
The stories about my great-grandpa were in the back of my mind when Bay High had a blood drive. Also, one of my sister’s friends passed away from a rare blood disorder, ITP. These thoughts helped me realize that a few seconds of pain from getting poked by a needle would be worth it to help someone who really needed it. Who knows how many lives he saved over his years of donating blood, or how many people with ITP survived because of a blood donation?
Aside from wanting to do the right thing, I also found out that my blood type is O+, and that this blood type is in high demand. Because I’ve been fortunate to grow up healthy, I realized it’s also my responsibility to donate whenever I can.
Did you know that you can donate blood every 56 days? My first experience went really well. Our school had a blood drive, we all signed up, and it was as simple as missing a class or two and doing a good deed. The volunteer staff made me feel very comfortable. They knew it was my first time, as it was for many others there. After checking my iron level and getting me settled into a chair, they cleaned up the area of my arm, marked a “good vein” and then told me to look away while she inserted the needle. It wasn’t super comfortable, but it also wasn’t horrible either. After breaking my elbow and having stitches in my lip a couple times, this was easy in comparison.
I know there is so much pressure on kids today to do well in school, excel in sports, get good test scores and so much more, but things like the blood drive helped me realize that there’s more to life than many of those things, and that simply being a good person and helping others is most important of all. It’s also nice to know I’m helping someone who doesn’t even know me, and it’s a good feeling to do that and not expect anything in return, except some juice and cookies.
I told myself that 56 days after my first donation I was going to do it again. It’s been almost 70 days, and I haven’t been back because I’ve just been so busy with school activities. But, I can’t make excuses, because donating blood is as important, and maybe more important, than other things I am doing. I know my great-grandpa, who only got to spend three months with me before he died, is smiling knowing that I’m trying to walk in his footsteps.