Friday, 2 August 2013

My First Blood Donation

Getting my appointment

Donating blood is something I’ve wanted to do for a few years now. It always seemed like a great way to help other people that required very little time and effort, as well as costing nothing (other than whatever is needed to get to the location). I signed up to do it a while ago but it was hard getting an appointment at a time and place I could do. When some have presented themselves I’ve been unable to get an appointment and I’ve been offered one in London before when I would be in Liverpool at the time. That’s just part of the awkwardness of having your home and university so far apart. I was surprised at the difficulty I had trying to do this.
Finally I was able to get an appointment on June 20th. Around a week beforehand I received a form I had to fill out about my health, lifestyle and so on, everything they need to determine whether they can take your blood or not. That was simple enough, though I’m still unsure whether it was good or bad that I was able to answer ‘no’ to everything. I also spent my time pre-blood day researching the process. I was a bit worried. I’ve spent a large part of my life fearing the doctor needles and the one that they use did look pretty big. I was questioned by several people why I would choose to do something like this with such a fear. Simply put, I didn’t want to be afraid, and I didn’t think being afraid was a good enough excuse not to go through with something that could save another person’s life.
I had my mum go along with me, partly for support and partly because I wasn’t sure how my body would react. I’ve never lost a large amount of blood before and I knew some people fainted afterwards so I didn’t want to be alone, though I was determined not to be one of those people (keep reading for a good laugh).

The Process

My appointment was in the morning so we headed out after breakfast and went to a couple of shops first. I’d been joking around then and the previous night about having my blood ‘harvested’, though the concern began to increase as we got closer to appointment time. I entered the place and was unhappy with how cramped and crowded the whole thing was, even more so when my mother decided to wait outside because of it, so much for support. The cramped and crowded feeling really only lasted while I was waiting to be seen and I’d say this negative beginning was made up for with what followed.
The staff were all really friendly. They were all older women so there was a nice sort of motherly vibe, very comforting. I was first taken in for a few questions to make sure I’d be okay to give blood and then I had to be given a test, I think it was for blood levels or iron levels, and I feel bad that I can’t properly remember or find that information right now. I’m fairly sure it’s the same thing they use to test for diabetes. I’ve had that test before and it hurt a lot, but this time I barely felt anything. I was hoping all the sewing I’ve been doing would desensitise my skin to needle pricks and now it seemed I’d got my wish. My fear of what would come next disappeared instantly and I felt like an idiot for being worried at all.
Next I was taken into the area for the actual blood taking. This place was less cramped than the waiting area and the bed was comfortable. There was a nice window view and if I sat up I could see my mum sitting outside. At this point I was busy being amused by everything I saw. I was given some water to drink first and then they brought out the needle. It was big. It was a big medical needle that I wasn’t afraid of, but I was still going to feel it. I lay down and waited for the nurse to do the blood pressure thing and then analyse my arm for all its veins.  It hurt a little, but no more than a sewing needle or cat scratch. I didn’t make a noise but it made my leg give a random jump.
Then the needle was in and the waiting began. I thought it was weird that the needle was going in more at the side of my arm when I thought it would be just under the inside of my elbow. The process was slow because apparently the vein didn’t want to co-operate. The blood flow was slow ad I had to squeeze a little ball to keep it going. It was nice just lying there, listening to the music, squeezing the ball. It was calm and relaxing. It was actually so slow that they decided to stop before they had fully filled the bag, though it was very close. The needle felt like nothing going out. It might sound weird, but I enjoyed seeing my bag of blood. The colour was nice and the bag looked squishy.
My first glass of juice was brought to the bed for me with a straw. It didn’t seem necessary, but I was grateful for their kindness and it made me feel good to just be lying there drinking. Afterward I sat up and waved to my mum and she came in when they took me to the recovery area. During the entire process, I honestly felt completely fine, no different to how I felt before the appointment. If anything I felt better. I still had some more juice, I can’t remember the brand but their lemon juice was delicious. I had some crisps though I was disappointed they didn’t have salt and vinegar. I waited a few more minutes as suggested and then we left.

Sadly I couldn't get one with the needle in.

The Super Fun Aftermath

As I said, during the process of giving blood and immediately afterwards I felt completely fine. After we left this remained the same. Around 20 minutes after giving blood I was walking around a shop with my mum when I started to feel really dizzy. I said ‘I’m starting to feel it now’ and the next thing I knew I was waking up on the shop floor. Yeah, that was funny, aside from the part where I seriously wondered for a moment if this was what dying felt like. I was pulled up from the floor and immediately had to lie back down. I felt very dizzy and I felt incredibly hot, more than I have this entire summer. To top it off there was this loud rushing noise in my head which sounded a lot like the ocean but right inside my ear. I remember asking out loud if what I was hearing was in my head or not though I knew what the answer was.
My mum left me (with a couple of store workers) to buy me a carton of juice, and as a couple of people in the line had seen me collapse they were kind enough to let her go ahead of them. The juice made me feel better a bit better but I was still dizzy and hot when I stood up so I sat on the ground outside for a couple of minutes. One of the ladies who had seen what happened said I should have sat on a bench. I laughed only internally because I knew she was only trying to look out for me but come on, the bench may have been only a few metres away but there was no way at that point I’d get more than a few steps without ending up on the ground again.
Eventually I felt well enough to leave. I decided against going to the last shop I’d wanted to visit in case it happened again. Instead of the closer bus stop we walked down a bit to the one where the bus started just to ensure I’d get a seat. One of my mum’s friends were there and we enjoyed the first retelling of what was now a funny story. Halfway home the sickness returned. I didn’t lose consciousness but I felt like I might throw up any minute. Luckily I didn’t. We went home and celebrated with apple pie. I had a slight headache from the fall for the rest of the day but I was fine. That night I realised my lower back hurt. The next morning I woke up to a lovely bruise that took around two weeks to heal.

My pretty bruise, sorry for the bad picture.

A Short While Later

A couple of weeks later I received my blood donor card in the post. It told me my blood type. Learning this was something I wanted to do for a long time. It turns out I’m AB+ which is the same as only 3% of the UK population. This left me feeling happy and a little special for the rest of the day.


After all this I have to say I greatly enjoyed this experience and am looking forward to doing it again. I can next give blood in October but I’ll be in Liverpool by then. I’m a little worried I won’t be able to find someone to go with me. I’m not worried about the process anymore but I am worried about what will happen if the effects come in late again and I’m alone, though I hope the reaction from this time will turn out to be a one off. I’m also not sure if I’ll be able to get an appointment there. If they send the form to London again I probably won’t get it but I don’t want to change my address with them just for a few months. I’m not sure how relevant any of that actually is.

I would also definitely recommend blood donation to anyone who is able to do it, though again, be warned, you can feel fine one minute and be affected the next. I really was surprised by how long it took for that to happen.

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