I thought today I'd write about a recent trip to give blood; or as mum called it when I was a kid; a trip to the vampires.
The reason I want to write about it? Because blood donors are always needed and not enough people who can donate, do donate.
"I don't like needles" is one of the most common excuses I hear when I talk about it.
"I don't have time" is another one.
"They won't want my blood."
And it's all wrong wrong wrong. And that's kind of what I'm aiming for here is to discuss those misconceptions and try to make things clear and easy, and maybe encourage people to give too.
So, let's go with a big hitter here. "I don't like needles". Firstly, neither do I. They're bloody horrible. I would never wake up and go "do you know what I'm going to do today? I'm going to get needles shoved in me for fun." So, unless you've got a full on phobia or something similar, this one is null & void to me. Let's break down to the 2 ouchie bits of giving blood:
- You have your medical check. This is where they go through your answers to the questionnaire that you have to fill out and confirm you are eligible to donate. Then, once they're satisfied with this, they have to check your iron levels are high enough for you to donate. For this they have to do a finger prick test. They take your middle finger, and use a small single-use device that clicks and stabs your finger to draw blood. They take a small amount of blood in a pipette and drop it in a solution. As long as it sinks quickly enough, you're good to go.
-Side note; if you don't like blood the simple answer here is to just look away after they've pricked you.
-Side side note; I hate this bit the most and it's over the quickest. I think it's just because fingers are sensitive and not somewhere you're ever likely to experience being pricked with a needle unless you sew and/or are diabetic.
- The main event is the only other bit of ouchie. Once you've passed your medical bit, you're moved over to a waiting area, and then when a donation chair is available, you're put in there. They will normally ask if you have a preference for which arm you want to give out of. Right handed people normally opt for their left arm and vice versa. I'm a righty, but am only allowed to donate out of my right arm because they have trouble getting a vein in the left. It's annoying at times, but I accept this. Once you've confirmed you know who you are, you have a blood pressure sleeve put on and your arm is cleaned. It's cold but all gravy. All building up to the big stab. When this comes along, I recommend looking away, not that you'd see anything anyway. Again, they have this awesome contraption that basically hides the needle until it's already in you. If you don't like needles, the simple answer is to look away. Focus on your breathing, let them know you're nervous. They're happy you're there so they'll talk you through what they're doing as much or as little as you want.
Side note; I always ask them to not say "Just a sharp scratch" simply because this reminds me of a bad experience in hospital when I was a teenager. They're call about this, and normally just ask if I'm ready.
I'm not going to pretend you don't feel the needle going in. You do. But once it's in, after about 20-40 seconds, you shouldn't even really notice it's there. They fill a couple of tubes for testing and then leave you to fill the bag. There's a slight pinch when they take the needle out again, but that is it. No severe pain, I promise.
Now that doesn't seem so bad does it? Through the whole thing I'd estimate there's about 45 seconds of pain total. That's nothing. This blood will go to people being treat for cancer. That's real pain. This blood will go to people who have been involved in horrific accidents; that's real pain. This blood will go to mothers who are haemorrhaging after giving birth; that's real pain. I'm fairly sure you can cope with 45 seconds of pain.
Secondly; the other really big one I hear for reasons why people don't give blood is that they don't have time. It takes no more than an hour out of your day, once every 4 months. Are you telling me you never waste an hour in front of the TV? Or on Facebook? Or on the computer? I usually use my time giving blood to either have a darn good catch with my Mum (as our donation days often fall on the same day, so we try to get appointments together); or to scroll through all the social media outlets I follow; or read a bit of an ebook. You're normally only on the donation chair for about 10-15 minutes. And at the end of it you get a drink and some biscuits or crisps. Winner!
Finally; the last reason I frequently here; "They won't want my blood". Yeah, they're fussy about the blood they take because it's going to sick people, but there's a lot of people who think they can't give when they can. I take medication for the pain in my joints, but I'm allowed to give. All I have to do is declare if I have taken my meds in the last week, and then they know what they can and cannot use my donation for. If in doubt, have a read through this; and if you're still not sure, call them and ask! They ask for you wait 4 months before donating if you've had a tattoo or piercing, but you can STILL give if you've had these things done!
At the end of the day, don't forget I have a chronic condition and they still accept my blood. I declare my problems and my medication every time, and they work with it.
So; that's it…. it's easy, it's pretty much painless, and it saves lives… Why not do it? It's easy and here's my "soon after" and "unbandaged and ready to shower".
And just as another by the way thing; I can't have plasters in the crook of my arm as my skin is too sensitive here and prefers to come off with the plaster; all I have to do is say and that bandage me up instead. Simple.