It was around 12 o’clock when the fear started kicking in. Knowing that within the next 4 hours I will have a needle prodded into my arm. “That’s if they can even find my vain,” I thought to myself. As I looked over to my left arm, I could see it, green and visible – there was no chance they would miss it. I was giving blood today.
It was pretty nerve racking. I hate needles, even though I have tattoos, it just doesn’t quite feel the same. not sure where the fear came from, I was fine as a child. Anyway, it was too late to chicken out. I registered on the blood donor list a few weeks ago and already missed one potential appointment, I wasn’t going to miss another.
Give Blood Save Lives
At 3 o’clock it was all booked in. They advised me to eat lots and drink lots before I got there, so I nervous ate anything I could find. I’m an emotional eater, if I’m sad I don’t eat, scared, I eat everything!
Walking to the community hall to donate was easy, I can see it outside my bedroom window and every month or so I see the bright red GIVE BLOOD signs outside my house, yet it took me a month to have the courage to do it. As I walked into the community hall I was directed to a woman on a computer to sign me in and confirm my details such as name, address and date of birth. I was then asked to fill in a form full of questions about sex, drugs, illness’, the usual.
Then I was directed to a waiting area and asked to read a booklet on first-time donations, there was nothing out of the ordinary. A few side effects like bruises and feeling faint were mentioned but there was nothing severe. They asked me to sit in the waiting room for 5 minutes or so whilst drinking a pint of water to ensure I was definitely hydrated.
After a few minutes, a male nurse called my name and took me into a small booth. He confirmed the questions I had previously answered and double checked everything was accurate. Whilst shaking and tapping my feet, I told the man I was scared of needles, he replied:
“However scared or worried you are, it’s nothing in comparison to how the person who needs your blood feels”
Then he pricked my finger with a tiny machine, almost like diabetics use to check their blood sugar. This was to do a check on my iron levels. It was painless. Much nicer than a bee sting. He sucked the blood up in a little pipette and dropped it in a test tube of liquid. My blood sank to the bottom, as it should. The blood sinking meant I wasn’t anaemic (as I have wondered for years) and my haemoglobin levels were fine.
I was good to go.
I sat back in another waiting area but this time for only a matter of seconds then I was called to a seat/bed. There were around 8 of these tilty seats all next to each other with people on, attached to tubes. Everyone was different. There was no set stereotype of a blood giver. There was a workman in his work gear. A business woman in a smart sleek dress, an old lady and an older gentleman. Though, I did notice there didn’t seem to be many people my age or younger.
Maybe this is where the issue is?
The NHS needs donors and every year less and less people donate. Is it because us “youngins” don’t care or just simply don’t bother?
I did bother. I sat in my seat and was handed another leaflet on exercises to do whilst there to ensure my well being. It included clenching my bum (#squatbooty), my thighs, crossing and uncrossing my legs and squeezing my hand.
Then my tilted chair was tilted back. The nurse popped on a blood pressure strap at the top of my left arm to add some pressure, but no blood pressure was actually checked (I did track my pulse with my fitbit though). After the strap was in place she washed the inside elbow and forearm with an antiseptic cleaner.
I was good to go
My fear of needles meant I had to look away, but surprisingly it was probably the nicest needle I’ve had. This nurse was much better than the evil witches that normally take my blood for testing.
I sat there for on my phone scrolling and taking photos of my needle and before I knew it my time was up. 9 minutes sat there chilling for a whole pint of blood. It was easy work. They said it takes between 5 and 15 minutes to fill a bag, so I’m happy with my 9 minutes.
After the donation a plaster is applied and you are asked to keep it on for 6 hours, you’re not allowed a bath or sauna and you’re not supposed to lift heavy for 12 hours – no gym for me tonight. But, there’s a bonus. At the end, you are directed to the “snacks table” where you can choose from a range of biscuits and crisps whilst sipping on a tea or coffee. So not only do you get to save lives, you get paid for it in food!
The hardest thing about giving blood
was the irrational fear I felt before attending. But, my preconceptions about it being painful or scary were immediately put to rest as soon as I had the guts to look at the needle. It’s not scary. It isn’t brave. It’s life.
A Life that someone else can have, thanks to your donation. A life for someone with cancer, someone who’s been in an accident, your mum, nan, sister, brother, a life for anybody who needs a blood transfusion.
So I urge everyone reading this who is able to. Register today and Give Blood! It’s easy, painless and you get to be an everyday hero!
I want to thank the team who attended Alton community centre today (18/01/17) for making me feel at ease and doing such a great and important job.