The need for blood is high. You may have heard the radio ads or seen the Facebook and Twitter posts declaring the “blood signal” to be on. The Telegraph Journal ran an article today about blood donations on the decline. Sounds like they need new donors. I thought I’d take some time to tell you about my experience donating, in hopes that it may help someone else consider donating.
I had made my appointment when I last donated, so I was all set this morning. (You can call ahead, but I think that they will try their best to fit in anyone who arrives at their door.) Once there, I checked in, read some pamphlets on blood donation, and then started the screening process. They double checked my contact information and then made a little pin prick on my fingertip and tested my blood for iron. If your iron is too low, you can’t donate. Luckily, mine was fine.
After that, I went to a cubicle and started to answer a questionnaire with questions on my history, like whether I’ve felt sick, had dental work, or a vaccination lately; or had done any travelling. My favourite question is always, “Have you, in your past or present job, taken care of or handled monkeys or their body fluids?” I always have a little giggle and start thinking about what kind of job I could get where I could care for monkeys.
Once I completed the first part of the questionnaire, I was led into a little private room, where a nurse took my temperature and blood pressure, and reviewed the second part of the questionnaire. The questions she asks are a little more personal, asking about drug use, sexual history, and some more specific medical history questions.
After it is completed, the nurse left the room, and I had to choose a barcode sticker to put on my paperwork. One barcode corresponds with yes, the other with no. If you choose the yes barcode, your blood will be sent off for the appropriate testing and will hopefully be used. If you choose the no barcode, your blood will not be used. You just peel off the barcode you choose, stick it on the paper, and throw out the remaining sticker. No one knows which you’ve chosen. This allows anyone who does not think their blood should be used the opportunity to say no without anyone else knowing.
The nurse then sent me to find a seat in the blood donation area. From my previous donations, I’ve learned that my right arm seems to be the better one, so I always tell them that. Then, I sit back in a recliner and let the technicians do their work. They’re really good, and even if they have trouble finding a vein, there always seems to an “expert” on hand to help out. The one thing I never do is watch the needle going in. That’s just too much for me. It’s the worst part, but it doesn’t hurt. I just look away, and then I’m fine. In fact, I think the little finger prick at the beginning hurts worse. Once the needle was in, I just sat back and checked Facebook and Twitter on my phone, enjoying the fact that I had a few minutes to myself. The time it takes depends on the person. I think it also gets quicker the more times you donate. The first time it took a really long time. Today, it took less than 10 minutes. Then I had to sit for a few minutes before enjoying some sweet treats. (I always go for the chocolate milk.)
That’s it! It’s really that easy, and relatively pain free.
My first donation didn’t go as smoothly as it did today. I think it’s important not to get discouraged if it doesn’t work out the first time. For my first donation, I went after a long day at work. I was hungry and hadn’t had much to drink that day. I think they only got about a teaspoon of blood out of me, and I almost fainted. They were so good to me though, giving me cold cloths for my face and tips for the next time. After that, it was a lot easier, and I now feel great when I leave. Now, I have two rules I always follow to ensure smooth sailing:
1) Drink water. Like lots of water. Start a few days before your appointment. Drink it on the way there. I think it makes your veins nice and puffy. I assume puffy veins are easier to find, and your donation gets collected faster.
2) Eat before you go. Make sure you have a good meal. Not just a granola bar on the way to your appointment.
I’m really proud of the fact that I donate blood. It’s an easy way to give back or pay it forward. Blood donation can literally save a life. Plus, you get a chance to sit back and relax for a few minutes, something this scatterbrain can appreciate!