For two years now I have been wanting to give blood but it just never happened, mainly down to pure laziness on my behalf. Just before Christmas I received a letter from the NHS plus a push from my sister that prompted me to go online and book my appointment, and today I went and I really wanted to tell you all about my experience.
Booking My Appointment
I found it very straight forward and easy to do. Visit their website and simply sign up as a new donor. Before you can register, you will need to answer a short questionnaire to see if you are eligible to go ahead.
Once you have passed this part and have made an account, you will be able to select the location, date and time which is more convenient to you.
When you have completed this you will receive a text and an email confirmation, and it is as simple as that.
The day before my appointment I received a text message which read, ‘with your first donation, it is more important than ever to prepare’, and underneath it included a link with more information to make your blood donation pleasant, safe and straightforward.
On the morning I received another text message with a friendly reminder to make sure I eat and drink plenty of water before I came in, which I thought was nice.
On the day
I was greeted by a friendly member of staff who gave me an information booklet to read and highly advised me to drink 500 ml of water before my donation. I had not long put the leaflet down before I was called to go into one of the cubicles, which is where they go over your medical questionnaire again and do a finger prick test to check that iron levels are good.
It was quite cool as they pop a drop of your blood in a specimen bottle filled with a blue liquid (copper sulphate solution of defined specific gravity). If your blood is heavy enough to sink you are unlikely to be anemic and can give blood. If it does not sink then you could be anemic or at the lower end of the range, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you are anemic as they set the iron level high so it doesn’t drop below normal after the donation.
I was taken to sit in a chair outside the cubicle whilst they prepared the equipment basket ready for my donation and then walked over to the blue chair. It only took her a few minutes to stick labels on etc and then she started to prepare my arm by giving it a good clean with antiseptic, which smelled so good.
I tried my hardest to not look at the other people who were already donating as I knew this would make me feel light headed but it was so hard not to. They all looked very comfortable sitting there doing a great deed and I was so excited to be part of it.
You are given another leaflet to read when you’re sat in the chair regarding exercises you can do whilst your donating to help the blood flow faster. It had things like clench your buttocks, pelvic floors, keep crossing your legs and changing them over and opening and closing your hand. I asked the nurse how long the donation would take and her answer was anything between 5 and 10 minutes.
So, so far so good. Then I saw the needle and I am not going to lie, it was much bigger than when you have a blood test; kind of like a mini straw. It didn’t hurt going in as it’s very sharp and designed to keep the vein open for a good flow of blood, I was however, not prepared for this part as I stupidly assumed it would be a normal sized needle. Also, once it was in my vein it just felt tight in my arm, but hey ho, it was in now and I was doing what I came to do and that was to donate my blood.
While I was sat there, I was trying to not look at everyone else but curiosity killed the cat and very nearly myself as I saw it sticking out of my arm. Well that was it and after a few minutes I started feeling really fuzzy and my heart felt like it was going to jump out of my chest. I tried to grab someones attention as I was not feeling good at all but the next thing I know, I was waking up with the chair right back, my legs up in the air and my head towards the floor to get the oxygen back to my head (think Graham Norton’s red chair).
They took the needle out of my arm straight away and that was where my donation ended.
I managed to give 330 ml of my blood however it was 100 ml short of a donation, which needed to be 430 ml. I was so disappointed in myself and felt so guilty that I had wasted their equipment when my donation wouldn’t be able to be used on a person. I did feel better once I was told it may be used in student training.
Once I felt well enough to get out of the chair I was given some leaflets with how to look after yourself when you have given blood and also another one because I had fainted. The nurse led me over to the refreshment table where I choose some popcorn and a glass of squash before I left to pick the kids up from school.
I will be definitely be trying to donate again in 16 weeks as this is the time frame required between donations.
My mum has always told me if I am happy enough to receive blood and for my kids to receive blood then you should give it if you are able too, which is what encouraged me to go.
I am also a rare blood type O Rhesus Negative, which means anyone can receive my blood in an emergency without their blood group being tested first.
I am definitely NOT put off by my experience, as overall the staff were great and made me feel very comfortable. It was just simply the fact that I was not prepared for the size of the needle and seeing everyone’s arms out casually with the needles in. I wholeheartedly take my hat off to anyone who makes time to go and give blood.
I know money is a big thing for the NHS but I do think for first time donors who are very queasy around blood like myself but want to donate, to maybe turn the end chair around 90 degrees so you have the back of the chair to the rest of the room, so you cannot see everyone else.