I’m proud to say that I gave my 3rd pint of blood on 23 January. However I’m a little ashamed that it took me so long to actually book my first appointment.
I had been wanting to donate for year but didn’t get around to it until August 2015. I should definitely have done is sooner because despite all my anxiety surrounding the process it’s pretty straightforward and relatively pain free.
I initially signed up online and booked my first appointment at the Blood Donation Centre in the city. They have loads of appointments and often accept walk ins.
Prior to my appointment I received a health questionnaire which ask yes/no questions relating to your health, travel, tattoos etc to check your eligibility. You take this along with your to appointment. Don’t worry if you forget as they have plenty available for you to fill in on the day. On arrive you are given a booklet explaining the process and advised to get a drink of juice/water from the machine in the waiting room.
Shortly after arrive your name is called by the nurse and you are taken to a side room where your questionnaire is reviewed. This process will take a little longer on your first appointment since you have to review your full medical history, whereas on subsequent appointments the form is worded to say ‘since your last appointment’. The nurse will then do a finger prick test to check iron levels. This is usually done on the opposite side to the one you give blood from but not always.
If you iron levels are acceptable then you are transferred to the donation waiting area ready for the main event. From here you are transferred to one of the donation chairs and asked to confirm your details again before the process begins.
The main event
In my experience the first action is to check for the best veins. Mine are a little reluctant to come forward which can cause a little bit of an issue but it hasn’t stopped me from giving blood as yet. Once they have selected the best arm/vein it’s onto the cleaning. A small pad is soaked with cleaning alcohol and rubbed along crook of your arm for 40 seconds and then left to dry. You will also be tilted back in the chair.
After this the needle is inserted. I won’t say this is completely pain free as you do feel a bit of pinch but once it’s in you can hardly feel it. I have been advised that I have quite deep veins and could possibly experience a little more discomfort than others due to this but as yet it’s not been anything that I can’t handle. The needle and tubes are taped to you arm and subject to the flow, you’re pretty much good to go.
Don’t be alarmed if you here a beeping, this could mean one of two things in my experience. The first is that you have finished donating your pint of blood and you’re all done. The second is that the blood flow has slowed down/stopped. I experienced this on my second donation and it caused my donation to take a little longer than expected as the needle needed to be adjusted. Luckily I managed to complete my donation with only two adjustments, should I have needed any more the donation would have to have been terminated due to the regulations.
Whilst donating you are advised to cross and uncross your legs, clench your buttocks and thighs and clench and unclench your fist in order increase your circulation and encourage the blood flow.
Once you have finished the nurse will remove the needle. You will be asked to apply pressure using three fingers to the gauze to stem the flow of blood. Once the bleeding has stopped a large plaster will be secured (assuming you’re not allergic – they do ask) together with a small wad of cotton wool to apply pressure. You are advised to keep the cotton wool on for half and hour and the plaster for 7 hours. So far I’ve managed to avoid any major bruising but have been advised that if you can keep your arm straight for as long as possible this helps.
Your chair will be raised back to the seating position gradually over 2 minutes and providing you’re OK you will be guided to the post donation refreshment area. You will be offered drink and something to eat (the selection is pretty good, although I usually just grab whatever is on the top) before leaving in case you suddenly feel faint. Providing you feel OK and the nurses are happy you are free to go.
It is possible to book your appointment before you leave but I usually book online once I get back home. I also pick up a couple of stickers the kids and one for my planner (yes I’m such a geek!)
Can you spare an hour?
Overall, based on my experience, the process takes 30-45 minutes from start to finish. If you feel you’ve got time to spare every 16 weeks (12 for men) then why not look into donating a pint.
I love the feeling that you’re giving back in some way. Especially when you receive the text to say that you blood has been used to help someone who needs it.
Why not check it out for yourself www.blood.co.uk
Thanks for reading, until next time