Donating blood is a huge deal that not enough people do. It takes an hour out of your day and in return you get the satisfaction that you have saved three peoples lives by just sitting in a chair with a needle in your arm. Now, I know some of you would be horrified by the concept of sitting for 10 minutes with a needle in your arm, but honestly, you cannot feel a thing!
Last week I donated a full bag of blood at my local Red Cross Blood Service. I am not one to gloat about selfless acts such as donating blood, but I felt that something this important should be shared with you all. Donating blood is a huge deal to so many people that are struggling with illnesses such as cancer, orthopaedic patients, surgical patients, trauma patients and many more people who just need someone else’s blood to help them survive.
I first wanted to donate blood when I was about 14 years old. I remember walking through the halls of my high school and overhearing two girls talking about how they donated blood over the weekend. I didn’t catch much of the conversation, but the concept stuck with me for years. I thought about my close family members both who have past and those who have survived through receiving blood donations, and I knew it was something I had to do. Although I could have donated blood when I turned 16, due to health issues I was unable to do so. So, as soon as my health was back on track and I was certain that I would be healthy enough to donate blood I took the plunge and donated my first bag of blood. In my honest opinion, it is the easiest and the most rewarding act that I have ever done.
In order for you all to realise how easy donating blood is, I wanted to share with you a detailed recount of my donation. I’m hoping by sharing my recount with you all that the stigma behind how ‘difficult’ or time consuming it is to donate blood becomes reduced.
Firstly, from the comfort of my own home I was able to contact the Red Cross Blood Donation service online to book an appointment. I was able to choose the date and time that suited me best which is a massive positive. Once I had chosen the date and time I received a confirmation text message a day before my donation appointment which informed me that I had to drink 3-4 glasses of water or apple juice in the three hours leading up to my donation time. That was probably the hardest part if I’m honest. Drinking at least 2L of water a day is something that I have become very use to, so when I actually had to monitor my drinking amounts it was something unusual as drinking a large amount of water has become a habit. But, I managed. If you are going to donate blood, I would recommend taking a drink bottle to the donation centre so you can keep your blood hydrated while you’re waiting. You also should have a large meal before you go to donate to reduce the possibility of you feeling faint, as well as to help reproduce the blood that you have lost. Making sure that your blood is hydrated and that you have plenty of food in your stomach before you donate is critical for a seamless donation.
The next part of the donation process is actually turning up to donate. At the centre, they will ask you for your ID and give you a questionnaire to fill in about your health. Really simple questions and anything you are unsure of you can leave blank! It’s as simple as crossing the relevant boxes. From there you have an interview with one of their lovely staff. I can tell you from personal experiences that I absolutely loath interviews; I see them as anxiety provoking and scary. The only way I can explain this interview to you was as if you were having a conversation with a good friend about yourself. It’s so easy! They go through your answers to the questionnaire that you completed and double check that you are eligible to donate blood. This is done through checking your weight against your height to ensure that you are within an adequate category, then checking your blood level of haemoglobin through a simple finger prick and finally, then checking your blood pressure. Throughout the interview, I felt comfortable with who I was speaking to and not judged in the slightest, which was amazing. The staff on a whole were so caring and only wanting the best for you.
Now came what most people would see as the scariest part of the whole thing – the actual blood donation. They take you into the donation section and get you comfortable in a big chair. From here you can choose your preferred arm in which you want them to take blood. I chose my right arm as I am a manual driver and changing gears with a bandaged arm could have been interesting. I then had the nurse look at my veins in my antecubital space, or elbow pit as some would call it. Although she was not confident with putting the needle into my veins, she managed to find another staff member who was confident he could do it, and so he placed the needle into my arm and left me be. Now, I know that the thought of a needle going into your arm would turn anyone off from donating blood, but I’m going to tell you the brutal honest truth here – It hurt for about 10 seconds. It wasn’t even a pain that was severe, it was like a little prick. If you are scared about donating blood due to the pain but would really like to do it, just get a person to prick your arm a couple of times to get you immune to the feeling. It will make it so much easier! You don’t even have to look at the needle as they cover it with a cotton ball (I did sneak a glance at it before they covered it and it looks very cool).
During the donation I sat and read my book, it only took about 7-10 minutes in total and then I was done. Throughout the donation, they have you constantly squeezing a rectangle stiff sponge and wiggling your toes. At one point throughout my blood donation I was told that I wasn't doing this enough (my book became a little distracting and I might have forgotten to do these) which meant that my blood flow slowed down a little, but it was easy enough to fix through just wiggling my toes and squeezing the sponge more often.
Once my blood donation was complete they took out the needle and held a cotton ball over the area. From here they bandaged my elbow up slightly with a new cotton ball sitting underneath. Then I was moved into the ‘recovery’ section. From here I sat and ate the best cookie ever, (seriously it was so good with large chocolate chips scattered throughout) and some strawberry milk (I quite possibly am still a child at heart). From here I was able to leave whenever I pleased to go off and continue my day. Although I had a bandage on my arm it did not stop me from doing anything that afternoon. I went straight to work from my blood donation and was able to do everything without a problem. The bandage only stays on for about 2-3 hours and then you are able to take it off your arm. It is important that you make sure to keep your fluids up as well as regularly eat in the hours after your donation to ensure that your body recovers the blood it has lost during the donation.
As I sit here writing this post I actually have received a text message from the Red Cross Blood
Donation centre that I went to which stated ‘your blood has gone on to save lives at Latrobe Regional Hospital Victoria’. I cannot begin to describe how I feel knowing that today up to 3 people will receive my blood and hopefully it will save their lives.
For everyone who may be considering donating blood, or hasn’t considered it before now, I strongly urge you to check if you are eligible to donate blood and if you are to do it as soon as possible! In Australia, hundreds of people are calling in to cancel their appointment every day due to becoming sick, although this cannot be helped if we all step up and even donate just once in our lives we will help save three people who are desperate for blood. I can guarantee you that once you have donated blood you will be addicted and want to donate blood as much as possible.
You are able to donate blood if you are between 16 and 70 years old and are healthy. For a full blood donation such as the one I did last week, you are able to donate every three months. But there are also donations such as plasma and platelets which you can complete in between your whole blood donations. I am unable to do either as I am not over 21 years of age, but as soon as I am I will be there as much as I possibly can in order to donate.
If you have any questions about my blood donation experience I would love for you to contact me on any of my social media platforms or by emailing me here.
If you are looking for more information on the donation process in Australia or are looking to book in for an appointment you can find everything here.
Have you ever donated blood? If so, what was your experience? Let everyone know down in the comments! I’m sure I speak for everyone when I say that we would love to hear it!
No matter where you are in the world, blood is always needed. So please, reach out to your local blood donation service and see if you are eligible! You will not regret it.