Opinion: You have so much to give

Many of us college students talk about changing the world after we get our international business and social work degrees. We often joke that we are poor college students with nothing to offer; however, there are some simple ways we can and should give right now.

When I got my driver’s license, there was no question for me about signing up for the organ donation registry. I won’t need my organs after I die, and my organs could save someone else’s life. Being an organ donor is a simple choice that can save lives.

Thuy-Tien Nguyen is president of the Be the Match club at Calvin, a chapter of the larger organization. Be the Match is a bone marrow registry that catalogs donors and pairs those in need with a matching donor.

We try and raise awareness about the registry. First and foremost, we do that by hosting registration drives,” she said. They also volunteer in other fundraising opportunities.

Another very practical way you can use your body to give life to others is through blood donation. Junior Britt Weston has worked at the MIBlood call center since she graduated high school. In addition to calling current donors who are eligible to donate again, she donates blood there as regularly as she can.

“There is no replacement for human blood, and it’s such a simple thing that you can do. … If even 1% more of the adult population that was eligible donated, then we wouldn’t have the national blood crisis that we do.”

Working in donor recruitment, Weston has heard the fears associated with donating, especially a fear of needles. But she said the MIBlood staff are well-trained and you get used to the needles.

“There’s a fair amount of people that have actually had a bad experience with a medical procedure and they honestly have a legitimate fear of needles, and I get that. But I think you kind of just have to try it. … Many people are just scared because they’ve never tried it.”

Between work and school (Weston is in the Speech Pathology program) her weeks are busy. However, she reminds students it only takes an hour to donate.

“Honestly, you’re just sitting there, so I even bring homework with me while I do it. For most of the process you don’t have to be paying attention to what’s going on. … We actually do blood drives at most of the college campuses so you don’t have to take time to drive somewhere.”

Andrew Haggerty, associate director of the Service-Learning Center, helps organize MIBlood’s mobile drives on Calvin’s campus.

“We have two drives each semester at Calvin, and each drive lasts for 3-4 days. A donor has to wait eight weeks in between donations, so we space our drives out accordingly,” Haggerty said.

While not everyone is eligible to donate, Haggerty encourages everyone to try.

“Many of these restrictions vary, and we encourage everyone to attempt to donate because often what we might think is a restriction may not actually prevent us from donating.”

Because I have diabetes, I can’t join the Be the Match registry. Even if you can’t donate, Nguyen reminds us there are other ways to be involved.

“Anyone can help volunteer to register people into the registry or … help fund the organization.”

Weston acknowledged that college students often decide to sell their plasma to earn some extra money. However, she said nonprofits like MIBlood are better options.

“Biolife, it’s not a horrible organization, but they’re not actually saving lives or using it for medication and research and stuff like that,” Weston said. “[At MIBlood] all of our blood products go straight to Michigan hospitals.”

Because I have Type 1 Diabetes, every time I am eligible to donate blood is a celebration. It means I have taken care of my own body well enough that I can gift someone else with my blood. Because not everyone is able to donate, those of us who are able have a responsibility to do our part.

We have so much to give.