Donating Blood: It’s Not As Scary As You Think

When I impulsively registered to be a blood donor, I didn’t expect it to take another six months to actually sign up to a session. I’m not particularly scared of needles or blood, but I must admit, I was a bit freaked out by the whole thing. Given the time of year, it seems a good idea to talk about it honestly.

Of course, I’d done my research. I’d trawled the NHS Blood website to find out if I was eligible, what to expect, and what to do before and after. Logically, I knew there was nothing to fear, but the voice in my head was pretty convinced the government was going to try and clone me.

But I found a date and time that suited me, and signed up before I could chicken out. When the confirmation email came through, my heart leapt. Can’t back out now, I thought.

“I was surprised and humbled at how many people were in attendance”

The day of, I made sure to eat and drink plenty beforehand. I walked to the youth centre where the session was being held and was greeted by a friendly nurse who gave me a form to fill in and asked me to take a seat. I was surprised and humbled at how many people were in attendance. More chairs had to be brought it as more and more people arrived, of all ages, from all walks of life. It was really lovely to see. Refreshments were plentiful and the general atmosphere was pretty calm.

I sat there and pretended I wasn’t nervous. I looked around and saw one of my lecturers sat waiting too! I distracted myself by texting friends and scrolling through ASOS. In retrospect, I feel that I wasn’t actually that apprehensive, though I think the impulsivity of the decision helped.

I was called up after a twenty minute wait, and my blood was tested for its iron content by pricking the tip of my finger. I’m not lying when I say this hurt more than the actual needle itself. The nurse congratulated me on my great iron levels—I’ll be putting that on my dating profile—and took me over to begin the donation.

Once I was comfortably seated, the nurse found a suitable vein in my preferred arm. It was then that I remembered watching a BBC show about junior doctors a few nights before, in which a young doctor missed a patient’s vein five times. Thankfully my nurse knew what she was doing.

“It wasn’t gross, but it was kind of weird”

“Call me if you feel woozy!” she said, leaving me to my own devices. I looked at my arm. It wasn’t gross, but it was kind of weird. I snapped a few selfies to send to friends and my parents, and then went back to ASOS to continue shopping.

Ten minutes later, I was done! My blood had been taken! I hadn’t died! I chatted to the woman donating next to me as I was bandaged up, and then the nurse gave me a post-donation guidebook and warned me not to go into any saunas for the next forty-eight hours—I told her I couldn’t make any promises.

And then all that was left was to sit down and eat biscuits for the next fifteen minutes. Relax, they told me, and I sure did. I talked with some of the other donors, listening to the stories of those who’d been donating long before it was cool. Soon after, I headed back to campus, feeling like I’d gained decent amount of positive karma.

“…know that your endeavour can save lives”

I wouldn’t recommend giving blood in the same way I’d recommend Annie’s Burger Shack or Pepper Rocks, but the experience is equally fulfilling. If you’ve registered and never actually attended a session, or have simply been to wary to even consider it, I hope this frank retelling has helped ease your nerves. Bring a friend, bring a book and know that your endeavour can save lives. You can also find out your blood type and earn bragging rights. It’s a win-win situation.

Sign up to donate at NHS Blood website

Esme Johnson

Featured image courtesy of Steven Depolo via Flickr.  No changes were made to this image. Image license found here.

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