Wednesday

My first experience giving blood

I don't like to boast, but I have a high pain threshold and I'm not afraid of needles. It would be a shame to waste those skills. For ages, I've been saying I'll give blood but have never got round to it. When writing my 101 in 1001 conclusion post, I decided to transfer my uncompleted goal onto the new list, and then figured there's no time like the present. Visiting the Give Blood website, I registered and noticed there was a donation session taking place half a mile from my house in two days time. Before I could give myself a chance to procrastinate, I booked that appointment. I'm so very glad I did because it was a great experience and I'm already looking forward to my next session!

Giving Donating Blood UK

For a lot of people, giving blood is a scary prospect. Aside from the usual reasons people might be afraid- needles, blood, strangers poking about in your veins- it's also a bit nerve-wracking not knowing what to expect. There's a lot of really good information on the Give Blood site but of course it's very factual. This post will give you my personal experience and thoughts on the matter so you can decide if donating blood is for you. I really hope it is.

BOOKING THE APPOINTMENT

Before you can book an appointment, you need to register online. It's super easy and just the usual information you'd expect from an online form. Once you're signed up, you can go ahead and book your appointment on the website or via the app. Just type in your postcode and choose from the list of possible dates and venues that pop up. It's that easy!

DONATING BLOOD

My donation centre was a fire station, and I got a bit lost when I arrived. Cue a very nice fireman washing a fire engine asking if I needed any help- I felt like I was in a Diet Coke advert. Once I found the way in, I was shown to the check-in desk and, because it was my first time, given an information booklet to read alongside a health questionnaire. This asked all the usual questions- are you on medication, are you pregnant, have you been unwell recently- and also asked more specific details such as whether you'd been abroad in the past year and your sexual history (nothing too detailed though!). Once this was complete, a nurse called me over to double check my answers.

When we reached the bit about travelling, she asked me which countries I'd visited in the past 12 months. I listed them off but then when I got to Italy, she frowned and pulled out a book. At this point, I thought my craving for pasta was going to get me thrown out but it was fine, she was just cross-referencing against the list of prohibited countries and Italy was, as I'd expected, a-ok. She then fetched another nurse who went over my answers again before pricking my finger and drawing a drop of blood. I'm not entirely sure what this was for as she didn't explain but apparently the result was good so she sent me off to drink a large glass of water.

After ten minutes, when I'd finished my water (and really needed the toilet), I was called over and shown to a chair. The nurse was really friendly and chatted away as she secured the band around my arm. It's like one of those blood pressure monitors- it puffs up and squeezes your arm, but without actually taking a measurement. She then poked about the inside of my elbow for a bit before saying 'Ok, let's try the other arm'. We repeated the process on the other side, then she said 'Hmmm back to plan A'. After a bit more poking, she explained that she was finding it difficult to find a suitable vein and called over another nurse for a second opinion. At this point, I was worried that I'd come all the way over here, smugly written all over social media about how I was going to donate blood, had my finger stabbed, downed a pint of water and now I was going to be sent home purely because of my awkward veins. Luckily, the second nurse found a vein and because it was so narrow, she offered to take over from the first nurse. 

My chair was tipped backwards (embarrassingly making me shout 'WHEEE!' involuntarily, much to the nurse's amusement) and my arm was scrubbed hard with an antiseptic. Then it was time for the needle to go in. As you'd imagine, it initially felt just like any other needle- injections, piercings, blood tests and the like. Once it was in place approximately a second later, it was completely pain-free. I couldn't feel it at all. Now there was nothing left to do but chill out, squeezing my hand to keep the blood flowing, taking selfies and watching the bag of blood fill up because I'm ghoulish like that. 

Seven minutes and three seconds later (the machine records your exact time), the bag was full and the machine started bleeping to alert the staff that I was done. A very lovely nurse called Peter came over, chatting away to me about discos while he removed the needle and patched me up. Then he went to look at how many donations I'd given and was shocked to see I was on my first one because I seemed to blasé about it. I think I've finally found my talent in life!

AFTER DONATING

My chair was raised back into a seating position and I was given a moment to compose myself before slowly getting up and walking over to the refreshment station. Here, I was given a choice of drinks (I chose blackcurrant squash) and told to pick from a selection of snacks. As I munched on my salt & vinegar crisps and orange Club bar, the lady serving food kept an eye on me (and the other donors), repeatedly checking we felt ok. I felt absolutely fine- no weakness, no dizziness, no nausea- so I happily snacked away before heading home.

Feeling smug, I boasted on social media about my good deed and immediately booked my next appointment for April. I was very proud of myself. But you know what they say: pride comes before a fall. Turns out you shouldn't have a hot bath four hours after losing a pint of blood. Who knew? I felt fine before my bath. I felt fine during my bath. I felt fine when I got out of the bath. Then I walked into the living room and SMACK! I woke up on the floor. Having never fainted before, it was quite the experience and I didn't feel quite so self-satisfied after that! Learn from my mistake, kids.

LATER

Once I'd recovered from my fainting adventure, life carried on as normal. I was a little tired for a few days afterwards but I put that down to the faint rather than the process of giving blood. For the most part though, I was back to normal and looking forward to my next donation.

After a couple of days, I checked my Give Blood app and saw my record had been updated with my blood type: O+. Will you judge me if I admit that I was a little put-out at having the most common type? I was hoping to be special with super rare blood, but never mind. A little while later and I got a letter through the door which contained my donor card and a keyring with my blood type on which is a nice little touch.

Two weeks after donating, I got a text message telling me my blood had been issued to West Middlesex University Hospital. It's such a great idea to tell you where your blood has ended up and really highlights the fact that your donation is helping a real person. Rather than just sending the bag of blood off into the world and forgetting about it, you become very aware that it is making a difference to somebody's life. 

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I'm very glad to have finally donated blood. For me, it was a very simple and pain-free experience (bar the bit where I hit my head on the living room floor) and I'm already looking forward to my second donation. If you've been thinking about giving blood, take this as a sign to register right now.

Register to give blood here

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11 comments :

  1. I love giving blood. It's a fun day out for me. The first time I had a coffee shortly afterwards and had to lie on the floor of B&M (where I was at the time) for 5 mins to recover... but I learnt my lesson xD It's great that you've written about your experience :D

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    1. I'm glad it's not just me who enjoyed it haha

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  2. That's so cool that you find out where your blood goes! I've got a low pain threshold, am terrified of needles and the idea of blood leaving my body leaves me nauseous - which is a shame as I think it's such a great thing to do. I did finally sign up to be an organ donor last year though so that's something. Thanks for writing this - it's good to know the whole procedure if I manage to get the courage one day :) x

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    1. Hopefully you work up the courage one day! Fantastic that you're an organ donor :)

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  3. Hi! Do you know what the rules are about giving blood after a tattoo? Not sure if I need to wait a while before I try and donate...

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    1. I think it's 4 months, off the top of my head. It used to be a year but they've relaxed it

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  4. Firstly, I just wanted to thank you. 1, because I've always wanted to give blood but have always been scared, so reading your account of everything that happens is helpful and reassuring and 2, our Nanna recently had to have 3 pints of blood and is supposed to be going back to hospital for another tomorrow (she's losing it from somewhere) and it's people like you who help her without knowing! So thank you again! I definitely need to do it now.

    Kelly x
    www.theblossomtwins.com

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    1. I really hope your Nanna recovers soon xxx

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  5. Last time I tried to give blood they gave up trying to find my vein however the regular nurse at the surgery has no trouble. Love the fact that they tell you your blood type after, might try again sometime.

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  6. It's so great that you've donated blood - I found it really interesting to read about the experience. Unfortunately I'm not allowed to donate, which I'm gutted about because I'd love to do it (despite how crappy my veins are and how prone I am to fainting hehe!) I'd love to know what my blood type is and I love the fact you actually find out where your blood has gone - that's a really nice touch :) Thanks for sharing your experience!

    Jenny xx

    www.jaffacat.co.uk

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  7. I used to give blood regularly years ago but health stuff meant I had to stop for a while - I really need to get back on that horse!
    Especially 'cos I have a pretty cool blood type (I'm B-)

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