For Merrick Tan, Donating Blood is a Coast-to-Coast Endeavor and Blessing to ShareBy Clarice Nassif Ransom, Volunteer
For more than 10 years, Merrick Tan, a fourth-year medical student at George Washington University in Washington, D.C., has been donating blood, a coast-to-coast endeavor that started in his youth in Union City, California, and carried through to adulthood.
“As a medical student, I see firsthand how valuable blood products are, and how frequently they are required to save lives,” said Tan. “I have been blessed with the ability to make my own, healthy blood. And if it takes a few hours of my time every few months to share that blessing with others, I am more than happy.”
Tan began donating blood where his father works at as a laboratory technologist at the Stanford University blood bank.
“I remember going with my father to work as a child and being fascinated by the machines and refrigerators full of blood products,” said Tan. “So, when I was finally old enough, it was an excuse to visit my dad at work. When I moved away from home, the American Red Cross had a blood drive at my school, and I have been donating there ever since. I donate at the Charles R. Drew center in Washington, D.C., and usually when I can get some time away from the hospital. But I just found out there is weekend availability, so hopefully I will be able to donate a little more often.”
Tan says the blood donation process is easy, and you get snacks and drinks afterward.
“When you first donate blood, you are asked a series of questions about important risk factors that may make your blood unsafe to give to others,” said Tan. “Then you get a quick finger poke to determine if you have enough blood to donate—which is probably the most ‘painful’ part of the experience. If you and your blood are safe to donate, then a phlebotomist will take you to a room full of other donors, insert a small needle into your arm, and hook that up to a machine that will collect your blood. If you are there for a while, you can watch DVDs or listen to music. But usually the process isn't very long. Once you're done, you get some snacks and drinks to replenish.”
A memorable experience for Tan is the first time he convinced his cousin to donate blood.
“He gets queasy at the sight of blood, so it took me months to get him to finally agree,” said Tan. “After that, I think it is safe to say he has overcome his fear of blood.”
When asked what Tan is most proud of by donating blood, he acknowledges that blood donations can save lives.
“When I donate blood, I think about my family and if they were to need blood one day,” said Tan. “Someone in my position can literally save their life, and so it is a privilege to be able to offer that to someone else's loved one with my blood donation.”