Pro football Hall of Famer Jerry Rice was never scared of big defensive players — but he was afraid of needles.
Despite that fear, Rice rallied his courage and rolled up his sleeve to donate his lifesaving blood. Over time, his fear of needles dissipated as he became a blood donor helping patients in need — from accident victims to people battling cancer or sickle cell disease to mothers facing complications from childbirth.
“The first time I gave blood, I really felt proud because it was a way for me to give back off the football field, and you just never know who you may be helping,” Rice says.
That feeling inspired Rice to continue giving. Now, he is teaming up with the American Red Cross to encourage people across the country to overcome their fear of needles just like he did, so they too can commit to a simple act with a powerful impact — giving blood to save lives.
“I was one of those guys who was always afraid of needles. This really tough guy, but you put a needle in front of me and I’m about to run in the other direction,” Rice says. “But to be able to go ahead and withstand that to donate blood, it makes you feel good about yourself, that you have done something really positive. They have people who are experts that will hold your hand. They’ll get you through that process.”
A crucial act
The need for blood is constant. The Red Cross often sees a drop in blood donations around holiday weeks, like the days surrounding Memorial Day and Independence Day, so it’s crucial donors continue to make and keep appointments all season long. A single blood donation can help save more than one life, which Rice says comes down to teamwork.
“Every two seconds, someone needs blood, and blood can’t be made. It’s up to us to roll up our sleeves, go out there, and donate blood,” he says. “That’s the bottom line. I’m happy to be able to have this partnership and put awareness out there. There’s a desperate need.”
To schedule an appointment to donate blood, platelets or plasma, download the Red Cross Blood Donor App, visit RedCrossBlood.org, or call 1-800-CROSS (1-800-733-2767).
Preparing for game day
If you are unsure about what your first donation will be like, Rice encourages you to think of donating like playing sports.
Preparing to donate blood “is just like a game: you have to make the appointment, you have to eat iron [a rich meal], drink lots of water, get plenty of sleep, and make sure you show up the next day,” Rice says. “And afterward, don’t forget to post about your donation on social media to encourage others to give blood.”
A blood donation appointment typically takes about one hour from start to finish, although the actual donation only takes about 8 to 10 minutes. Upon arriving to a Red Cross blood drive or donation center, donors check in and complete a health history screening, which includes checking their temperature, blood pressure, and hemoglobin levels, as well as asking a series of questions designed to ensure they are healthy enough to donate and that their blood is as safe as possible for patients.
Donors can speed up the process by completing a RapidPass online health history questionnaire at RedCrossBlood.org/rapidpass or on the Red Cross Blood Donor app. In addition, bring your ID — such as a valid driver’s license — birth certificate, or social security card.
“Here’s your chance to make a difference,” Rice says. “You never know who you might be helping. It could be a friend or a family member who needs blood — and that’s why it’s so important.”