Everyone needs blood to stay alive - share some of yours

A sharp object is forced through your epidermis and punctures your vein. And after the vein is pierced, a vacuum sucks your blood from its flow into a thick plastic bag. Hypodermic needles, vacutainers, iodine swabs, latex: it all sounds so clinical.

And terrifying. Despite the fears I associate with donating blood - the needle breaking inside my arm, getting stuck many times because they can't find a vein, having an allergic reaction to something, passing out - at one point I set them aside and stepped up to the table. Apparently, much of the student body has done the same. The blood drive that filled the Union Ballroom Tuesday and Wednesday was thoroughly impressive.

But this isn't about overcoming my fears or patting others who have on the back. This is a sincere plea to anyone thinking about donating blood. You have seen the reasons on the back of the T-shirts and doing it has probably crossed your mind more than once, but I'm not here to tell you that the best part is the cookies and juice at the end.

Yes, donating blood has its perks: snacks and a feeling of supreme badass-ness rocking that bandage for five hours (I'll admit it, I wear short sleeves even if I'm cold). Even better: it's a free, shameless way to get tested for HIV/AIDS. They test your blood and notify you if it comes through positive.

If it's apathy holding you back, these reasons should be motivation, but I think what stops most people - what prevented me from donating immediately - is the fear of it hurting.

First, know that the risks are almost nonexistent for you. They test you for anything that would make giving blood unhealthy for donors. Also, the staff is excellent. Every time I've given blood, the people who have talked to me before, during and after have been completely reassuring. In fact, they have been very cool, willing to talk about their own experiences giving blood and seeming to thoroughly enjoy their jobs.

And far as the actual procedure goes, it doesn't even hurt. My pain tolerance is not high and honestly, the finger prick at the beginning is the worst part. If you put the pad of your finger in your mouth right now and bit down hard, it would hurt more.

The most convincing thing I can say in encouragement is that once you get over the hump and donate, you will feel overwhelmingly and genuinely good about yourself. When the Red Cross mailed me my donor card, I found out that my blood type is O-negative, making me a universal donor. It is an incredible feeling, knowing the potential I have to do good for another human being.

In contrast, I have no problem saying that if you are capable of donating and you haven't, you should feel guilty. Our bodies are really the only things we can, with confidence, say we've got going for ourselves. They are the one thing that we all have in common: a beautiful, simple connection that comprises humanity. And for the abysmal state of human relationships, donating blood offers an easy outlet for redemption.

We have all watched disease, crime and misfortune consume loved ones. Take a second to think of the most recent and pertinent situation in which the body of a person you care for has failed them. And if you think about the suffering and agony they have gone through, a resilient pinprick pales in comparison.

Julie McMahon is a junior English major who wore her bandage for two days after donating. Badass, isn't it?