Happy Blood Donor Day

If you aren’t a donor and are able to give, please consider donating blood or plasma at your local Red Cross. Even if you hate needles or the sight of blood its not as frightening as you might imagine. 

My dad

I started donating about five years ago. My dad had terminal cancer and received several transfusion during his treatment. They were more to give him strength especially in those last few months of his life. It was really moving to me that the doctor and hospital showed no discretion as to who should or shouldn’t receive blood despite their patient’s circumstances or length of time left on this planet.  So after that, I felt like I should give back.

For anyone nervous or unsure of what happens I’m going to describe a regular visit to the Red Cross. Bear in mind that I am in Sydney, Australia so if you’re reading this from another country it may vary. And of course, everyone is different and may of had different experiences so I’m only outlining my own.

Upon arrival you will be ask to fill out a questionnaire about your health and conditions, which can range from have you been unwell to have you had any tattoos done recently. Very straightforward and a lot of the information is available on their site so you can read up beforehand as well.

Then you’re taken to a healthcare worker who will go through your paperwork to make sure everything is hunky dory. They take your blood pressure and will make a tiny finger prick so that they can read your red blood cell count to make sure your blood cells are high in haemoglobin.

Next you go into a bigger room where you’re seated in one of those long, soft comfy chairs like in a VIP cinema and there’s even a tv on to help distract you as well. Anyway, they may take your blood pressure again, give you a squeezie toy to hold and put a warm compress on your arm – this is to increase the blood flow making for a smoother transfusion. They insert a needle into your vein and start the transfusion.

Just to be clear, I absolutely 100% without question HATE needles. As a teenager I had to get braces and was given about 5 injections in my mouth in one go, and this was in the 80s where needles were much bigger and clumsier compared to now. An experience I will never ever forget, especially when I thought I was just going in for a check up. And I will be honest with you and say I still get a bit sweaty in anticipation of these blood donor visits and have to give myself a bit of a pep talk to relax. 

That pep talk comes from the grown up voice inside of me that says…A. You’re donation is going to help someone that is going through much, much worse pain than a needle in the arm and B. I’ve stubbed my toe, given myself paper cuts, endured blisters from tight shoes that have been WAY MORE PAINFUL than a 5 second prick of my skin. And that’s what it feels like – a pinch in the arm, like the kind you would have gotten from your friends at school. Truly, pinch yourself as hard as you can in the crux of your arm for several seconds. That’s not so bad, huh?

And if the blood makes you squeamish? The only clear sight of blood is the finger prick done at the very beginning. Of course there is the tube that goes into your arm but it’s not a clear tube, its semi-opaque. Your arm is also outstretched on an armrest positioned to the far side of your body so its not right in front of you. Plus you can easily look the other way, watch the telly or just close your eyes. The receptacle bag is even further away and you would have to physically sit up and turn your head 15-20˚ to see it. It’s also a semi-opaque pouch covered in labels which obscures most of the contents and sits in a rocking cradle hidden even more from view.

If this still all sounds like too much for you, maybe if you knew that this transfusion stage is over in about ten minutes would that ease your mind? Ten minutes, to save someone’s life.

Finally once its done the needle/tube is removed and a cotton gauze, band-aid and bandage wrap is applied to your arm which you should leave on for the rest of the day just to be safe. If its your first time they might ask that you sit there for a little while. My first time I was a bit light-headed when it was over, but I think part of that was because my chair was put at a very low angle. Since then I haven’t had any issues.

Then the reward follows – a whole kitchen of potato chips, chocolates, biscuits, cheese, crackers and other goodies are there for you to eat. It’s the only time eating these foods are good for you!! Or you could have just a little bite then go and treat yourself at your favourite cafe or restaurant.

The best part comes last – when you realise how good it is to give back to your community. So if you’re feeling intimidated by the whole process I hope this helps, and unlike having to open up your wallet to donate to a charity this is a money cant buy situation. Donating blood is such a game changer for many people, and because we all have different blood types its even more imperative that we keep donating.

Anyway, thanks for your time.

Happy Blood Donor Day!

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