On Monday the 24th July 2017, I did something I’ve wanted to do for years, give blood! I have quite a rare blood type (only 6.6% of the population have my A- blood type) so I’ve always felt that if I could muster up the courage, I really should give it a go at least once in my life. I had previously made an appointment back in February this year only to be told that due to a medication change, I couldn’t actually donate that day. It’s safe to say I was disappointed as I had totally geared myself up for it on the day. However, never one to be told no, I returned this month to try again.
I have booked my appointments online as I find it’s the easiest way to make and change them without having to involve anyone else. They ask for your mobile number when you sign up and I was surprised to get a few texts the day before and on the day of my donation giving me tips and advice in order to make it go as smoothly as possible. The key thing is to make sure you’ve eaten and drunk enough on the day as that limits the possibility of feeling faint, something I was very worried about.
On arrival, you hand in your completed information form and are told to drink a pint of water or squash, this is to ensure that there is enough fluid in your stomach to avoid your blood pressure dropping. As I was quite nervous, I found that drinking the water kind of calmed me down in a weird way and before I knew it, it was all gone and they were calling my name.
During the next stage of the process, they go through your information for and check there is nothing stopping you donating that day. They are very thorough which is for both your safety and the person who will eventually be receiving your blood. They are strict on things such as when you’ve had piercings, your recent holidays and any medication you are on amongst others. It all seems stupid but if you sit and think about it, they have to make sure it’s entirely safe for everyone involved. The final step at this stage is to do a finger prick test to ensure that your iron is at a safe enough level. I was convinced that this would be the problem for me but nope, I was good to go!
From here you wait for a nurse to call your name and take you to the chair. I found this the most daunting as you were watching other people have theirs taken and it made me feel a bit uneasy. They called my name and they asked whether I was right or left handed. This is so that they take blood from your non-dominant arm to avoid it causing you any problems. They sit you down and take your blood pressure and thoroughly clean the area (for 30 whole seconds in fact!). Then it’s the bit that nobody likes – inserting the needle! It is just a very sharp scratch, not painful but definitely not nice either. Once it’s in, thats the hard part done and it’s a matter of sitting back and waiting for your body to do its thing!
I’m a fidgeter and to be honest, I wanted it to be done as quickly as possible so I asked if I could have something to squeeze in my hand to a) keep the blood flowing and b) to give me something else to think about. I was also a bit worried that they’d end up taking too much blood but it is all controlled by a machine so this is actually impossible! Phew! It took a grand total of 8 minutes and 52 seconds for me to donate my pint of blood and I can honestly say it felt a lot quicker than that! The lucky woman next to me must have had a crazy blood flow as she was under 5 minutes! As I say the machine stops the blood flow automatically and beeps to alert a nurse that you’re done. They remove the needle (literally painless) and ask you to apply pressure to your arm to stem the flow of blood. The speed of this bit depends on how fast your blood clots but mine was done in about 30 seconds. They apply a pressure bandage and gradually start to sit you up.
I think I was slightly preempting the fact I may feel faint so as soon as they started to get me up I felt a bit hot and bothered so they lay me back down and fanned me. I literally felt like such an idiot but they made a huge deal out of it so they definitely don’t take any chances with your safety. I was then moved on to have something to eat and drink but as the woman only had cheese and onion crisps (EWWWW) she let me off with just another pint of water. To be honest I was not at all hungry so I was glad and set off home with Tom who had come to meet me.
I felt a bit tired and drained the next day and unfortunately I was sick that night but we can’t say whether that was to do with the blood donation or not. It may have just been an annoying coincidence as looking back I did feel a bit queasy all day but I’d put it down to pre-donation nerves. I’m writing this two days on and I feel fine. I have a tiny little bruise on my arm but that’s it. Incredibly, my body should have completely recreated the pint of blood I gave within 1-2 weeks and my fluid levels should already be back up to normal. It’s just crazy what you’re body can do! It’s vital that you try and keep eating and drinking as normal afterward though so make sure you’re looking after yourself!
Do I plan to go back and do it again? Absolutely! The sense of pride I got when I left the church after donating was amazing. Who knows where that pint of blood might end up! I’ve already got my next appointment booked in for November and I’m hoping to be able to keep doing it regularly. You are actually allowed to donate every 8 weeks but you’ve got to make sure you’re feeling okay when you do. Yes it’s not going to be for everybody but if you can find the courage to go and do it, it’s an absolutely amazing thing. I’ve been an organ donor for years and years but that won’t actually effect me in my lifetime so I wanted to do something that was physically my choice and required my own will power. Even if you only do it once, it’s such a huge thing and you could literally save somebody’s life!
Please feel free to ask any questions if you are still looking for more information about giving blood or visit the Give Blood website! Have you ever given blood? If not, what’s stopping you?