When my husband first took me to donate blood a few years ago, I was a nervous wreck. I wasn’t even quite sure why. I am not really scared of needles and in fact have had quite a few, from blood tests to shots and even tattoos.
But I am not a fan of hospitals or clinical settings so I think that may have been my biggest turn off. I have now donated around 10 times.
A lot of my friends and family have been apprehensive about donating and I must admit, I was lucky. I had my husband by my side to tell me what everything was about and to laugh and joke with me.
So let me give those new to donating a little run through. When you come in to the hall you will first meet a couple people who will take down your contact information. If you may want to donate more at a later time, you should bring your driver’s license. They can take your info off there and later send you a donor card.
Once you’ve traded information you will be given a slip, which contains your information for the next station and a brochure for you to read. It also includes a small card with your name on it.
At the next station a nurse sitting at a table will do a finger prick test to test your iron. Some people actually dislike this more than getting the actual needle. I don’t mind it though.
If your iron is good, it’s on to a set of divided tables where you will fill out the first half of a questionnaire. The questionnaire includes questions about your general health and if you have any diseases or have had surgery recently. There will also be some questions on travel.
Next you’ll place your name card in a box with others who are waiting. You’ll need to have a seat and read your brochure thoroughly, just to make sure you know the side effects that accompany donating blood. You’ll go see a nurse in a private area who will fill out the rest of the questionnaire. Those questions will all be high risk questions pertaining to things like drugs and blood transfusions. The nurse will also take your blood pressure, pulse and temperature. If you get through that fine, you’re set to donate.
The nurses will ask you to take a seat in one of their lovely reclining chairs. There you’ll choose which arm they use, or you can let them pick what one has the most visible veins. Now I have tiny veins so often I let them choose which they can see the best and usually they get someone they think will be able to get that little vein the best. Then they strap a blood pressure cuff on the top of your arm, pump it up, rub your arm a little bit and see if they can find the vein.
Once they’ve found the vein they’ll give your arm a really good swabbing with disinfectant, and then it’s the moment of truth. If you’re not a fan of needles, don’t look, just breathe. The nurses are really nice and they’ll do their very best to make it a fine experience. In truth, when I donated on Feb. 5, I barely felt the needle.
If they do not succeed in inserting the needle they won’t try again if you don’t want them to. If you’re still feeling fine, you can switch arms. I won’t lie, it’s not always simple. I once had a nurse who accidentally slipped right through my vein and bruised me instantly. This is not a normal occurrence but you need to understand that occasionally mistakes happen. I came back though and last time I donated I managed to fill all my bags in 10 minutes.
So your needle is in, now the nurse is going to take a few samples, and then it’s time to start filling up some bags. If you feel woozy, get them to tilt the chair back. I do that all the time. They might get you to squeeze a stress ball to keep the blood flowing in your arm. But remember this: drink a lot of water throughout the day before you donate. If you don’t then you may not be able to donate at all or it will go very slow and you’ll be there for a long time.
When you’re done they’ll ask you to sit for a while to make sure you feel well. After that it’s on to the cookie and juice table. And in Queens County they have something a little extra: Tim Horton’s Donuts. Having donated quite a bit while living in Yarmouth, I can say they don’t do that everywhere.
So that’s it, you’re done. Now I don’t really eat meat very often so I find donating tires me out. Try not to do anything strenuous, have a nap if you need to and don’t feel guilty about needing a little extra something to eat or some sugar. And congratulations to you, you just helped save a life!