I have been wanting to donate blood for ages, way before I actually could. The age requirement in the UK is 17, which I am but I have been wanting to donate blood since I was about 10… My parents would tell me things about what blood could be used for and it really amazed me… Surgeries, trauma, chronic illnesses and the list goes on and on. I have always wanted to be a part of that, to help someone who really needs it, not because it would make me feel good but because people actually need blood and it comes with the added perk of making me feel good.
I finally got to donate my first pint of blood today after months (I was 17 in June) of being turned away because donor sessions were full, so when I got this chance there was no way I was going to say no.
So I have been excited all week for today but literally right before I went in, I did feel quite nervous, as soon as I got talking to the nurses though everything was all good.
First you have to go in for a sort of medical interview thing where they ask you questions about your health based in a questionnaire that you have filled out. Apparently I am quite a “complex case” since it took a senior nurse and a district nurse (not sure what the difference is but they seemed to know) to figure out if I was allowed to donate. Basically the fact that I see a rheumatologist completely threw them but since I have been seeing her since I was 14ish and still had no diagnosis because if lack of evidence seemed to be okay, but they did say that if I was diagnosed with any type of auto-immune rheumatic condition in the future, I would not be able to donate which I am quite upset about really.
My having only one kidney completely floored them too. It seemed like I was the first patient that had come a long knowing that I only have one kidney… They weren’t entirely sure if that would mean that I couldn’t donate so they spent 10 minutes looking at some sort of database and came to the conclusion that I could donate since I don’t see a nephrologist. (I was going to point out that having only one kidney is pretty common and not everyone who donates blood with one kidney would know, but I didn’t need to say anything).
So after they decide you can donate they use a little finger pricker to take some blood (from your finger, amazingly) and then they put this little drop of blood into a test tube full of a green/blue liquid (I didn’t have the presence of mind to ask the name of this liquid though) and if your blood sinks within 15 seconds you are good to donate. It’s basically a little test to see if you are anaemic or not. I thought that the finger pricker would hurt more than it did, but it hurt less than a paper cut and you can hardly see the mark it left.
And then after they prick your finger to keep your finger clean and to stop you spreading any little drops of your blood around which would be totally unhygienic they stick a massively oversized plaster on your finger that gets in the way more than doing anything.
After they have decided whether you can donate or not, they make you take a seat in a little waiting area for a chair to become available, and while you are waiting you are forced to drink a pint of water. That doesn’t sound to bad but after you have drank a litre of liquid in the last half hour you really do need to go to the toilet!
I got a chair pretty quickly, within 10 minutes of sitting down in the waiting room… So then the nurse and I had a wee chat about which arm was best to use… I don’t know why, but she really wanted to use my right arm but after I had told her that a phlebotomist couldn’t even get a needle into my right arm she gave in and went for the nice “juicy vein” in my left arm (her words, not mine). It would have been easier and quicker if she had just gone for the left arm straight away instead of looking for a vein in my right but she was the nurse and knew best.
What I was really glad about was how she got my “juicy” vein first time so there were no extra sticks for me. The nurse also said that I was brace watching the needle going in since most people don’t watch that on their first donation, but I watching the needle going in or not watching it, either way you are donating blood.
The needle was a big needle, I must say but the bigger the needle the faster you bleed so you aren’t sat there for so long. And plus it really didn’t hurt at all when it was going in, nothing more than a blood test.
It took me a grand total of 12 minutes to bleed out the whole 470ml which I thought was quite reasonable… The nurse seemed quite talkative so I asked her what the fastest donation she had seen was… It turned out to be 3 minutes which does kind of put my 12 minutes to shame. But knowing the fastest time made me want to know the slowest time but it turned out the machines used nowadays automatically shut off if you haven’t reached 470ml by 15 minutes, so the longest she had seen was 15 minutes.
I think taking the needle out was the most painful part of the whole donation, and it didn’t even hurt that badly, again the equivalent of a blood test. They like you to apply “3-fingered pressure” for 3 minutes which I interpreted as firm pressure using 3 fingers, and then they stick a plaster on and a roll of cotton wool to apply extra pressure to the site where the needle was.
I was not going to wait up till 12pm to take off a plaster so I took it off after 4 hours and I’m really impressed by how little the bruise looks, I’m sure tomorrow it will look a bit bigger and a bit browner but so far so good.
Although blood donation is really important, the volunteers who help out are just as, if not more important! Without them the who process would fall to pieces, and in the future, if I’m not allowed to donate I will one of those volunteers because I would still want to do my part!