I recently gave blood for the seventh time, and I always try to promote giving blood on social media each time I do so. For years I knew that I had rare blood and never actually signed up to donate until around two years ago, so I thought I should write a post to share my thoughts on how important it is to donate, as it is a fundamental consideration in my life.
Although I’m super keen, I am not quite sure why I became obsessed with the idea of donating. Individuals with O- (RH O Negative) blood are among only 12% of the world’s population, yet our blood is universal to others. That is quite astonishing really. It mean’s that even though there are not many of us, our liquid gold can provide blood support to a whole variety of people, particularly to those in scenarios when you do not have time to figure a blood type out before giving it – for example, accident and emergency, or new born babies. I’ll admit I feel somewhat superior with this blood type, but equally I am filled with a deep desire to help where possible, for others in these difficult situations as well as my own blood-type-family. It is a small obsession but it’s important. I have been to India and Brazil since I started giving blood, and both trips have delayed me in my following appointments – travelling to Brazil caused me to wait six months before I could donate again which I was so gutted about. I donate and immediately book my next session three months later (it is every four months for women) and try to get my maximum 4 donations per year done where possible.
I guess this is a relatively odd obsession though, given that only 4% of the population actually donate their blood. It truly baffles me why this percentage is so slow, and it seems even worse when you discover blood can only be kept for 35 days, so there needs to be a continuous flow of donations. Always. Of course there are individuals that cannot donate due to health reasons, they may have iron deficiency or are simply too small in body mass/weight, but there are a vast number of individuals who are missing out on giving such an amazing gift to others in need. Most people I talk to are freaked out by needles or fear of the unknown – and to be fair I understand that – but it genuinely doesn’t hurt, and it is a really simple process. Allow me to elaborate in 10 steps:
- You book an appointment through the blood.co.uk website
- You turn up to your appointment
- You read a document about the process and fill out a form and you pour yourself a nice fresh pint of water/squash
- You hand your form in and wait to be called for a screening
- In the screening they check your form, ask any questions based on the information provided, then they do a finger prick that draws just enough blood to put a drop into a liquid solution – this solution will indicate your iron levels are okay, if the drop sinks that is
- Return to the seating area and wait until you are called
- When called you choose what arm you would to donate with [I am a leftie], and you take your seat where you are run through your form again to ensure you match up
- You’re in the chair. The nurse pumps the cuff on your arm to see your vein, then cleans it for 30s. They then prepare the blood bag in the machine, then for the needle. At this point I have always looked away. I don’t hate needles but no-one really loves them. The one time I looked was okay but looking away is preferable, and advisable! You feel a small sharp pinch in your arm and thats it, nothing else, no more pain for the remainder of your donation (which I would guess takes an average of ten minutes)
- You sit there patiently donating, kicking your feet like you’re swimming and clenching your fist (and glutes) to keep the blood flowing. The machine makes a little beep to say you’re done and the nurse comes to finish the process. They simply remove the needle and ask you to apply pressure on your arm with a cover before they apply a plaster
- BISCUITS! When you’re ready to leave your seat you head to the waiting section where you’re offered another drink and some biscuits. You simply chill out and bask in the glory that is you did an amazing thing. And it was quick. And it didn’t hurt. And you fancy signing up again.
Wonderful right? I certainly think so. There is not much else to say on the topic. Surely you are convinced to go and give up some of your time and blood already. Personally I would be super eager to know my blood type if I did not already. And you get a cool donation card too. Go sign up!