When it comes to thinks I’d like to avoid doing – having my blood taken is pretty high up there. For years when I’ve went to the doctor’s I’ve avoided blood tests. I had a pretty nasty experience 8 years ago where someone was doing a blood test and was having trouble finding a vein so stabbed my arm to the tune of 5 times and I’ve just been petrified ever since. I know that my experience is obviously not what happens to most people and that having a blood test is relatively straight forward but for me it was a big no no.
And so in a way I decided a trial by fire. A shock therapy if you will. This year I want to do new things and really what is the point in living if you don’t do things that scare you (even if it is something as daft and little as giving blood.) My friend Sean has been wanting to give blood for ages so he kindly came along with me for moral support – and I can’t lie, it really was brilliant having someone there with me going through the same process.
The thing is – it was pretty much pain free. It definitely felt odd but it was over relatively quick. I felt utterly daft for not doing it sooner. I pre-registed (to avoid chickening out) to go to my local blood donation centre in the city centre – making sure I did the whole eating/drink water thing before hand. When I got there I was asked to fill out a short questionnaire to see if I could donate. You’re then given a finger blood test to check your iron levels. This was easily the worst part. They have a small needle they use to draw blood (it reminded be a bit of punching a hole in paper – sorry if I’m not selling this to you) which is a bit nippy but over relatively shortly. If you’re iron levels are fine it’s over to the chair where you are set up. They asked if I still wanted to go through with it (the nurse could see I was flat out terrified) but I’d started and I was going to see it through.
The actually donation is pretty simple. They apply a pressure cuff to bring forth a vein and then pierce your arm with a small needle and away you go. The needle was like a small scratch but other than that I was fine. The actual feeling of giving blood is very weird as could feel my arm pulsating a little bit and I kept wanting to lift it (don’t do this.) They asked me if I wanted them to cover my arm and I stupidly said no which meant for the entire time I was looking at the other side of the room and trying not to look at the tube of blood coming from my arm. I would squeeze my hand in to a fist to encourage blood flow and in 10 minutes – boom, done. Time for biscuits and juice. After it I felt fine – a little bit giddy but nout a good sit down and a bit of shortbread didn’t sort.
Only 5% of the public are active blood donors which seems mental considering how straight forward it was. We’d all like to think if we needed it, it would be readily available to us and for something that takes so little time and does no much good it’s odd how few people do it (myself included.) Your blood is split up in to 3 groups – red cells for carrying oxygen and for people who’ve lost blood, platelets which work to stop bleeding and bruising and which are often used by patients who don’t have enough like those going through chemotherapy and plasma which helps blood clot. Most blood donations are used for patients with blood loss or going through cancer treatment.
If you’ve ever thought about donating blood or want to know more I would fully recommend going to your local blood donation clinic. Mine is the Scottish National Blood Transfusion Clinic based in the city centre. They are open 6 days away and you can either book in for an appointment or just drop in. Either way I’m glad I did it and I can officially cross “donate blood” off my 2013 bucket list – though here’s hoping it won’t be the last time I do so this year.