Closing In On My Blood Donation Challenge

July 28, 2016

donate blood uk

I’m just back from giving blood and – as instructed – am putting my feet up rather than operating heavy machinery or doing a Hazardous Activity.

Today was my 38th donation. Not bad, given how I’m 39 and all. My personal challenge is for my number of donations to overtake my age. So I need to donate twice more in the next 11 months…

Are you a blood donor? There was a first-time donor at the session tonight who looked to be in her mid-30s. I wondered what made her decide to start now? I’m always curious about the reasons behind people’s decision to donate. (I didn’t ask her, don’t worry!)

Here’s my story. I hope it encourages at least one new person to register as a blood donor and turn up at that first session.

The NHS Blood Donation website
Register as a blood donor

I first gave blood in my early 20s, although the event that triggered my decision happened a few years earlier. When I was 17, my sister and her Mum (my step-Mum at the time) were in a car crash. It was bad – very bad. My sister’s Mum was in a coma for a time, and in the ICU for a good while after. My sister was in hospital for months, both legs in traction. Suffice to say the whole thing was a huge shock and pretty traumatic.

We got the news overnight, and I went to the hospital the next day. As I left to go back to school, I picked up two things from the hospital reception: information about becoming an organ donor, and information about giving blood.

I’ve given blood, on and off, for nearly 20 years. I try to do it as regularly as I can (tattoos and body piercings have slowed down my average!) I won’t lie, it’s not the best thing in the world. But it’s nothing like as bad as some people imagine.

Is it painful?
No. Honestly, the bit which “hurts” me the most is the pin-prick thing they do on one finger to check your iron levels. The actual donation part is almost painless. Sometimes there’s a sharp scratch feeling as the needle goes in. But not every time. Tonight, for example, I honestly barely felt it. It does not hurt during the donation, nor when they remove the needle.

Does it take ages?
No. My PB (yes, I am competitive with myself over donating blood…) is around 5:45. Tonight was mega-slow for some reason: 9:20! WTF! Women’s donations take longer than men’s (less body mass, smaller veins). The entire session usually takes around 40 minutes from walking through the door, filling out the questionnaire thingy, and finishing up your cuppa and snacks 😉 It will be quicker if you pre-book. Walk-in sessions can be slow at busy times, obviously.

Are the people good at it?

Yes. They’re fully trained (obviously) and this is their full time job. They’re efficient, friendly, and always make you feel at ease. They’re really lovely, actually. Holla to “Brian” who oversaw my donation tonight.

It is scary?
I guess it could be a bit daunting at first. Fear of the unknown and all that. But you’ll get used to it. It’s made very easy for you, and the sessions are relaxed, quiet, and you won’t be rushed. The website is easy to use, there’s an app, and they’ll text you little reminders before your session. Staff are always extra-kind and caring to first-timers.

Does it wipe you out?
I’ll admit that it does affect me a bit. I usually donate in the evening, so all I have to do when I get back is eat and go to bed. I’m fine by the next day. There’s plenty you can do to minimise the effects: drink lots of water, get enough sleep (they’ll give you plenty of advice). I have very low blood-pressure, which might explain why it does leave me feeling a bit drained. Pun intended.

Why do you do it?
See above. I realise that not everyone has a “story” like mine – indeed I hope you don’t!

If you are a blood donor, what made you decide to donate? And if you’re not, what fact, statistic, or event might persuade you to start?

Closing In On My Blood Donation Challenge is a post from The Fit Writer blog.

Nicola Joyce – the Fit Writer – is a freelance copywriter and journalist who writes for the sport and fitness industry. Her main website is here.

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