Image from Jessica Laswell via Flickr
I’ve been meaning to give blood for a while. I was too close to the minimum weight for a while so I didn’t give, but now I’m healthier (heavier ) and all set!
This year I got a piercing in January, so I had to wait 6 months after that… Technically it’s 4 months, but I’m told they’re skeptical about believing people who say the equipment was sterile when it may not have been. Since I have no proof, I waited the extra 2 months. Before those 6 months were up, however, I underwent an operation! A couple of weeks ago, after seeing a Red Cross stall at an orientation fair I attended, I called to ask how long after my operation I should wait. He told me 2 months, which was up only last week! I’m glad I put off calling. It was exciting to hear that I could do it so soon!
My blood type is O-. If you’re unfamiliar with blood types, donors with O- are known as the “universal donors”, because O- can be given to any other blood type. While this is a fantastic type to be as a blood donor, it’s not so great if you need blood. O- types can only receive other O- type blood!
There was a chart in the bathroom about how certain blood types are sought for different types of donations. O- are sought for full blood donations, others for plasma, and others for both. Plasma takes a lot longer and you’re able to donate it a lot more often, since they return the red blood cells to you. I don’t think I’ll donate plasma, they don’t seem to need it from me. Maybe one day though.
It’s winter here right now, so we have the flu going around, and the wonderful man on the phone told me a lot of regular donors are ill around this time of year. I haven’t been mingling with illness, so I have a good bill of health. I’m glad I can use it help others this season!
Though the donation process is short (about 15 minutes), the rest and paperwork takes a while. They said I should allow about an hour and a half. When I went in yesterday, it ended up taking 45 minutes.
When I got to the blood donation centre they gave me a few forms to fill out, one had 3 parts, others were only a read-and-sign sort of deal. I’d eaten 2.5 hours before – they say you should eat within 3 hours before. They also say you should have a lot of fluids in the 24 hours leading up to the donation, and at least 3 tall glasses of water or juice in the 3 hours before donation. If I’m honest, I don’t think I drank enough fluids, but I did have more than usual.
They took my blood pressure and haemoglobin while they ‘interviewed’ me. Perfect blood pressure is 120/80 mmHg, mine is 101/64 mmHg! It’s low, but it has to be below 90 before it’s a real problem. To take haemoglobin, there’s a little needle that pricks your finger a little bit, then the blood is measured for iron absorption, to see if you’re at risk of anaemia for example. Mine is healthy at 123 g/L! According to wikipedia, normal haemoglobin levels in women are between 121 and 151 g/L.
After the interview they sat me down, elevated my chair and put a blanket over me. They gave me a stress ball to squeeze then poked me with the needle, which didn’t hurt at all. They sticky taped it down so that it didn’t pull or move, and we chatted. I mentioned at first that my fingers felt a bit weird, but when I started moving them more and squeezing the ball more often it went away. 10 minutes or so later it was all over!
I expected to feel more dizzy. When you’re a new donor, they sit you up for a couple of minutes before letting you leave the chair after your donation. I expected to feel quite faint, being so petite; people always joke when I mention giving blood that I wouldn’t have enough in me! But I felt totally fine.
In the refreshments area there was a European woman, I think her accent was French but I couldn’t be sure (the way she said “orange” just made me think of it!). She asked me if I want tea, coffee or juice, so I said juice. Apple or orange? she asked. Apple it was! She brought it out on a platter with cheese, crackers and a fun-sized chocolate, and asked if I wanted a muffin. I said yes before she came back and said “now, you have to eat ALL!” Yikes, I don’t think I could finish it on a good day! I ate what I could and put the rest of the sealed food in my bag for later. Thankfully her shift finished before I left so she didn’t see my half eaten muffin!
It takes 24 to 48 hours for your blood to replenish itself; they take about 600mL, and say the quicker you drink this much fluid the quicker your body will recover. No strenuous activity for 24 hours! The website said 12, but they said 24, so that means no workout. I felt a bit guilty, my muscles are yelling abuse at me and I’m fidgety. Can’t wait for the 24 hours to be up so I can get moving today!
Some time this month I’m accompanying a friend to his blood donation, as my overwhelmingly good experience has inspired him! He has had bad experiences with small blood tests, but giving blood in Australia is very safe, and he knows that if he feels funny they will stop, so he’s decided that the fear of what could go wrong is not enough to hold him back from at least trying! All the best for your donation (I know you read!), and I hope anybody else reading will think about taking the leap if they’re able as well. The people of your country need you!