Inspired By Her Brother, Janet Overcame Her Fear Of Donating Blood

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Janet had always admired her father Bill for being a lifelong blood donor but could never manage to donate blood herself because of her fear of needles and the sight of blood.

“Then my older brother was diagnosed with colon cancer. We watched him go through chemo treatments and he received numerous pints of blood,” Janet recalls. Often people with digestive system cancers have internal bleeding, which can lead to anemia and too few red blood cells.

“During that time, I realized the importance of donating blood,” Janet says. “However, I still couldn’t make myself go.” When her father was approaching the donation of his 100th pint of blood, he wanted his son to go with him to witness the milestone. Sadly, Janet’s brother passed away from colon cancer before that day.

“I couldn’t let him go alone, so I became a ‘big girl’ that day and went with my father to donate,” says Janet.

What It’s Like to Donate Blood

Bill made his donation on his son’s birthday, and Janet went with him to donate blood at Baystate Medical Center’s Blood Donor Center.

Janet’s apprehension about giving blood is very common. Many people wonder how they’ll feel after giving blood.

What makes people hesitate? Many cite fear of needles, the sight of blood, and most of all, fear of fainting – even though fainting after giving blood is very rare.

Bill getting blood taken from phlebotomist


Following a screening, the blood collection process takes about 15 minutes. When finished, most donors feel fine while some may feel slightly fatigued.

“All donors have a snack and drink after they donate and receive information to help them recover faster post-donation, including staying extra hydrated for the next 24 hours,” says Nicole VanZandt, supervisor, BRL Blood Donor Services, Baystate Medical Center. Learn more about what happens when you donate blood. 

Why Donate Blood?

With minimal side effects and a small sacrifice of time, a single blood donation can save up to three lives. And donating has positive effects for donors themselves as well. After donating, many people feel a sense of purpose and good will that they are making a difference in the lives of others. People who have a lifestyle of volunteering and “giving back” to others have been linked to health outcomes, including a lower risk for depression and greater longevity.

After that first day that Janet went to donate blood with her father, “I realized I could do it after all. Everyone there is so professional and friendly,” she says. “They put me at ease. We have been going together every eight weeks since that day.”

When Bill arrived with Janet for his 138th blood donation on his 88th birthday, a surprise was waiting for him. The Blood Donor team had arranged a surprise “birthday party” in his honor complete with decorations and a cake.

“Baystate’s Blood Donor Program is proud to have such dedicated donors. Getting to build friendships and relationships with our donors is as important to us as their blood donation,” says VanZandt. “Janet and Bill are truly an inspiration and to learn more about their backstory makes us even more proud to know two such amazing people.” 

What Inspires You to Give Blood?

Janet decided to donate blood to honor her brother’s courageous battle with cancer and as a thank you to those who had donated blood to help him during his cancer journey. What’s your inspiration? Share your story.

“We are proud to be a part of the Blood Donor Program,” says Janet. “Now I know how many people benefit from this gift. It is easy and fast. I hope more people will see the benefit and donate.”

How to Donate Blood

With Baystate’s Blood Donor Program, 100% of our donations stay within western Massachusetts and help our local community. To make an appointment:

Schedule online

Call 413-794-4600

You may also make an appointment to donate at one of our community hospital blood drives at Baystate Franklin Medical Center, Baystate Wing Hospital, or Baystate Noble Hospital by calling 413-794-4600.

Learn more about Baystate’s Blood Donation Program and frequently asked questions about giving blood.

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