Rapidly approaching 40, I was conscious that I’d never donated blood, despite promising I would for the past 10 years. When I saw a post on social media over the winter regarding low blood stocks, I decided it was time to overcome my fear of needles and book an appointment.
Like many families around the UK, mine has been affected by cancer in recent years. Sadly, some have lost their battle with the disease. Thankfully, with the help of Colchester and Ipswich hospitals, some have beaten it. There is no doubt that cancer treatment in the UK is improving, but the treatment (and many emergency procedures) can still heavily rely on donations of blood. I decided it was time I stopped thinking about it and got on with it.
I arrived for my appointment at the Colchester United Community Stadium after work and made my way to the first floor, where I was greeted by a very friendly nurse and asked to take a seat in the waiting area. As this was my first donation, I was provided with an information booklet and asked to drink a pint of cold water (I’ll explain the importance of this a bit later on).
About 10 minutes later I was called into the room and asked to take a seat in a small cubicle, where another very friendly nurse asked me a number of health-screening questions. She took a small sample of blood from my finger and placed a drop of it into a vile. This was a haemoglobin (iron) test which I passed with flying colours. The whole health-screening test was sped up by me completing the health questionnaire prior to arrival.
A few minutes later, I was sitting in a large chair and waiting to be hooked up to a device which would take just under half a litre of my blood. It was at this point that I noticed a couple of nurses quickly running over to a lady who had fainted. It transpired she had skipped a meal during the day and had passed-out due to low blood-sugar levels. The nurse said to me this was rare and that it’s always a good idea to eat plenty on a donation day, especially foods high in iron. Oh, and avoid junk food.
Water is vital, and you should drink plenty of 24 hours before you donate. When you arrive, you’re asked to drink cold water to help improve the blood pressure in your body (this helps prevent light-headiness).
A blood-pressure cuff was put on my arm, a strong vein found, and one quick sharp-scratch later I was providing my first donation. During the donation, I opened and closed my first and clenched my buttocks as advised in the information booklet (this helps prevent you feel light headed and keeps the blood pressure up).
10 minutes later I was being unhooked from the tube and had completed my first blood donation, and it felt great! No pain, no discomfort, no issues whatsoever.
A cup of tea and a biscuit later, and I was soon in the car and on my way home, wondering why it had taken me so many years to pluck up the courage to donate.
So, if you’ve ever considered donating blood, what’s stopping you? The NHS carries out over 6,000 blood donations every day to treat patients in need across England alone. Your pint will really make a difference and you never know when you – or someone you care about – might need it.
Learn more about how to give blood.