I Gave Blood

Today was my second visit to donate. I arose bright and early, filled out the questionnaire I’d been sent a few weeks ago, then toddled along to Chiswick Town Hall, which is to be my new donating site since moving back home.

What met me, other than a long wait (entirely my fault for accidentally turning up an hour early) was the standard procedure where you sign in, drink a big cup of water, and wait alongside all the other prospective donors. I would suggest, especially to anyone as foolish as me, to take a book. You’re then called to a short ‘interview’, where you’re asked if you’ve licked any mosquitoes as of late, or have been in contact with anyone who has been in contact with anyone who has contracted the West Nile virus. They also take a drop of blood from your finger to check your blood’s iron levels. Mine is great, apparently.

After a short wait in a different area of the Town Hall, I was ushered towards a bed, and told to lie down. My arm was prodded by a trainee who called in for backup to deal with my ‘pesky’ veins. A little sting later, and I was half man, half machine; or something. I was told to rub my thumb and forefingers together, as if I was trying to start a fire with them. I was also informed that I should flex my thighs and buttocks to help stimulate blood flow. As a long-distance runner, I took this as a personal challenge, and started flexing and rubbing with immense vigour, desperate to complete my donation quicker than those around me. I won, thankfully, but unfortunately didn’t time myself. When the donation was completed, I sat up and applied pressure to my arm, while a kind nurse stuck a plaster on it. A quick cup of water and a packet of crisps later, and I was off on my merry way, not before scheduling another appointment for February.

In all seriousness, if you’re in a good state of health, it’s immensely important that you give blood. The whole process which I’ve illustrated to you is very hassle-free. Subtracting the hour I sat around for being early, the whole donation process took thirty minutes. As I’ve said before, the Blood.co.uk site is also remarkably easy to use, and allows you to find and register for an appointment in your area in a matter of minutes, without having to sign up or register for anything.

You could really save someone’s life in half an hour, every four months. That’s an hour and a half of your time each year, leaving 8764.3 hours to do whatever else you desire. If you’ve signed up to the National Blood Service, please, make an appointment if you haven’t already. If you’re not signed up, then make an appointment at blood.co.uk. You’ll be making the best decision you’ll make all day.

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Diary of a First-Time Blood Donor

Despite having been registered for a year or so, I’d never actually given blood before. I tried in the past, when the blood van had previously visited my university, but had never been able to donate, seeing as how prolific students are in their commitment to giving blood. This is excellent.

The blood patrol has recently started doing its rounds of Southampton once more, and owing in no small part to the convenience and lack of hassle of the NHS’ appointment booking system, I managed to arrange an appointment today at the Swaythling Methodist Church, without any problems.

As I stepped into the church, I saw chairs, and some screens to my right, and a collection of beds to my left, where donations are given, along with an area for post-donation refreshments. After a brief stint of queueing, I was checked-in by a kind lady, who was very forthcoming with thanks for my being there. I was then sent to fill in a questionnaire, with some silly (but nonetheless important) questions about whether or not I’d sold my body for money at any point in the last 12 months. With this completed, I went and sat down on the chairs, sipping on a cup of complementary water, before I was called to a table by a lady sitting in front of a laptop. This was to confirm my address. Ironically, to do this, I had to give her my address as verification that I am who I say I am. With this done, I went back to the chairs, for some more water, before being called to another table behind a screen, where I was again asked to verify my name, address, and date of birth. I had some blood taken from one of my fingers, which was dropped into a green vial. Apparently I was good to donate, so I returned to the chairs once again, to watch others lying on the beds spread out across one half of the hall, rabidly clenching and unclenching their fists.

Soon, it was my turn to donate. I jumped up on one of the beds, and was told that blood was going to be taken from my right arm. Name, address and date of birth were requested. My arm was strapped up and compressed with a blood pressure gauge. After some (literal) poking around, I was told that we were going to use my left arm instead. Then, after some more poking, I was told that we’d actually be using my right arm. The poking continued, but the woman poking me didn’t seem satisfied. A nurse was called. Name, address, date of birth. After examining both of my arms, she confirmed we’d be using my right arm. Once it had been strapped up, the nurse got out a quite menacing-looking spike, which I assumed would be going in my arm. I was right, although it didn’t actually hurt that much. I was told that because I have small veins, the donation might take ‘longer than usual’, but wouldn’t take no longer than 15 minutes; the time-limit they impose on donations, as the blood would begin to clot if the donations took any longer. I was told to clench and unclench my fist, to help the blood along, and that an alarm would sound if my donation overran the allotted 15 minutes. Clench I did, and it seemed to work. No alarms, no pain, and no discomfort.

Afterwards, my arm was freed, and I was asked if I felt okay, which I did. I then moved to the refreshments table, for orange squash, crisps and biscuits. Magic. I even made friends with one of my fellow donors, an engineer who also played rugby in his spare time.

Overall, the entire experience took a little over an hour. I would definitely do it again, and contrary to what I was told before, I felt absolutely fine afterwards. Next time, I just need to remember to wear a sticker exclaiming my name, address and date of birth.