My First Blood Donation

Here I was. Monday 6th August. Half past 3. Waiting for my appointment. This was my first time I had donated blood and oddly enough, I wasn’t nervous. I looked around the room and looked at the other donors: Old School friends…Teachers…Parents…Pensioners… there was quite a variety.

In one hand, I had a 500ml glass of water. This is supposedly to make the blood flow easy when it comes to making your donation. It also gives you a stronger chance of not fainting. In my other hand I was reading through a leaflet.  There is a fact on that leaflet that stuck in my mind and it said: “only 4/100 people who are eligible to donate blood do so”. It suddenly felt wierd, yet proud to be part of the 4/100 people who were donating.

I looked across the room and saw one of my old school friends. She had dropped out of college and now had her own child. Anyway, she had just come from the area where they were taking the donations and she looked glum. It was because she couldn’t give blood because she fainted while they were taking some blood samples. I felt very sorry for her since she really wanted to donate but simply couldn’t.  Whereas most of my friends were sat at home-on their backsides-bathing in the sun or watching the Olympics.

I was also texting a friend who was telling me that she tried to make a donation a while ago but couldn’t either, because she suffered from Spherocytosis-where the blood cells are sphere shaped. (This will appear in one of my upcoming blogs called “Blood Blood Blood” so stay tuned)!

After half an hour of waiting, I got called up. “Well, here I go” I thought to myself. The nurse took me behind a canvas and asked me a few questions from the

Donor Health Check (DHC) questionnaire I had filled in beforehand. They contain simple yes/no questions regarding your health: “Have you taking any drugs? Are you on a prescription? Have you had sex with a Prostitute?” etc. 5 minutes later and that was also sorted. Now it was time for the Iron Deficiency Test.

What Happens

They give you a pinprick with a small needle and take couple of drops of blood from your fingertip. They then use a tiny pipette to place the drops into a glass cylinder containing a copper sulfate solution. The idea is that the blood should sink to the bottom within 15 seconds. (The problem the nurse was having with me was that it took three small needles to make a good enough pinprick for sufficient blood to be sampled. I guess thats what happens when you play too much guitar and the tips of your fingers harden)!

Anyway, once she got the sample, she dropped it into the glass cylinder containing the copper sulfate and it sank straight away. “Good Start” I thought.

Before long I found myself on the bed, ready to give the donation. They go through all their checks: get the blood bag ready, ask you a few questions: “Are you feeling well?” etc. You read through the card they give you. It states that you should keep clenching your fist and uncrossing and crossing your legs to increase the blood flow. This means that you do some excersise which increases the heart rate which means your body gives the blood quicker. Once I had finished reading the card, it was time.

First was to check the vein was visible. They place a cuff around the upper arm and squeeze the rubber ball. The cuff tightens and the pressure causes the vein to appear closer to the skin surface. Next came the sterilised wipe over the vein where they were going to take the pint of blood from. And then came the part the majority of people are terrified of: the needle. As soon as felt it enter the skin, I closed my eyes and tried to relax. I don’t mind needles but I’d rather they put it in first time rather than having a few attempts at it. After feeling a short, sharp, stinging sensation I breathed. The needle was in and the blood was flowing.

Five minutes through the donation I started thinking… how long does it take to fill a pint of blood? And for some unknown reason, I had the image of ordering a pint at the bar in the local pub and instead of steady flowing beer coming from the taps; blood was dripping out at the sound of a heartbeat. I know, I think really stupid things.

Occassionaly I looked down to see the needle still in my vein. It wasn’t stinging anymore but you could definately feel something was in your arm. A couple of minutes later and the machine starts clicking and beeping, telling me my time is up and the blood bag has been filled. One of the nurses came over and took out the needle  All the way through the process, I felt fine but now I was beginning to feel a touch lightheaded. They told me to press on the point (with a bandage) where the needle had been inserted for two minutes. (Everything they do is timed). After the two minutes, a plaster was placed on the mark, and a polystyrene strip was placed on top of it.

It wasn’t till I was sat up that I really felt quesy and so they elevated my legs and put a cold cloth of my forehead. Eventually, my temperature lowered and I felt normal again. And that was it. The Donation was complete! I stayed behind after to have a few cups of orange juice, and a biscuit before heading home.

A days later, I recieved a letter from the National Blood service thanking me etc. The thing I was most curious to know was what blood group I was in. Turns out I’m A-!!

Thank you for reading!