I’ve been donating blood since I was 17. Not for any particular reason, or because of a tragic event or anything, just because I can. Now, I’m going to tell you why you should too. (Unless you actually genuinely can’t, in which case this post might be a bit useless for you.)
Blood is required on a DAILY basis. They say that one donation can save three lives, so if we look at it that way, I alone have saved 24 lives as today marked my 8th donation. Over half of donors today are over the age of 45, therefore it is so important to have young donors to replace them- especially men who can donate more often, and people with rarer blood types (like my Uncle, who has been donating blood for as long as I can remember and has a rare blood type). Although my blood type isn’t particularly rare, the more the merrier, so whether you’re an O or an AB-, the door is always open.
Enrolling is so straightforward- you simply sign up on their website. There are separate sites if you live in England, Scotland or Northern Ireland. Then select a date and location, and go through the questionnaire to see if you’re eligible. This can vary depending on if you’ve been to the dentist recently, have caught a cold or have visited certain countries.
However, it’s the actually donating that puts people off. The idea of having a needle in your arm and feeling just under a pint of blood leave your body sounds terrifying, but it’s actually not that bad. The nurses are there to make your experience as peaceful and painless as possible, and they are quick to react if you start to feel faint or ill. Also there’s free food.
So how long does a blood donation actually take?
The actual donation takes less than ten minutes. The full process including your checkup and recovery will probably take about half an hour. If it’s your first donation they give you more recovery time, as it’s not something your body will be accustomed to.
Is it easy to donate?
Generally, yes. You get given something to squeeze and you wear a blood pressure armband to help, but my veins seem to be difficult to find and one time my blood didn’t want to leave my body. Usually, it’s a smooth experience, and you tend to learn which arm is better for you and what works best (for me, my left arm is better than my right).
Is it really painful?
I’m not going to lie and say there’s no pain at all, but let’s face it, you’re in a much better position than the person that needs your blood. They prick your finger at the beginning to check your iron levels and then of course, there’s the needle. I would describe it as a dull ache at most, but obviously that depends on your pain threshold and your tolerance for needles. There are side effects, but in most cases as long as you follow the instructions they give you afterwards you’ll be fine. Also there’s a number you can ring if you feel ill in the following days after your donation.
How do you prepare for a donation? Is there anything one should do to make it easier?
On the day of your donation, you should make sure you eat a proper breakfast, and after you will be given squash, tea or coffee and chocolate to recover (although today I got a mince pie!). Make sure any alcohol is out of your system and go through the survey the night before to make sure you are definitely eligible.
It’ll be my first time, will it be worse?
It’s normal for the first time to be worse because your body won’t be used to it. However as I said before, you will be given extra attention during your first donation and it’s so satisfying knowing you’re helping someone who needs your blood.
Is it worth it?
Absolutely. It’s something that’s free to do, and the benefits and the good things that come out of donating blood far outweigh any discomfort.
If you have any additional questions, you can ask me, or you can check out the website for your respective country below.
Northern Ireland: http://www.nibts.hscni.net/
Happy New Year, and I’ll be back with more Basque adventures when I return soon!