Yesterday I went and gave blood. I've been doing this as often as I can since I was about eighteen and it surprises me how few people actually do give blood. So I thought I'd talk today about the process, so others can see it's actually pretty simple.
First you make an appointment. There's a blood donor centre not far from me which makes things easy, but I've also worked at places where they've brought in a mobile blood donor centre, or arranged transport so people can go and give blood. You could even get together a group of friends, and make it part of a quarterly get-together - give blood before going out to lunch or for coffee.
The first step when you arrive is filling out a questionnaire with yes/no answers to make sure you're still eligible to give blood. If you want to check eligibility, there's some info on the Red Cross page. There's usually drinks available and you should always make sure you're well hydrated before you go.
Then there's the interview. You get weighed, a nurse takes you through the questionnaire to get the extra detail they need, they check your blood pressure and your iron levels. To be honest, the little pin prick they give you on the end of your finger to get the blood for the iron test, probably hurts the most! If everything is good, they take you in to the donation area.
I've got to say the chairs are so comfortable. They move up and down and recline so you can be as comfortable as you want. If it's cold there are rugs and if it's hot they have fans. There's also a television to keep you amused, though I usually take a book. Now, I'm really not a fan of needles, and sometimes seeing blood can make me a little queasy, so at this stage I tend to look away from what they are doing to my arm.
Basically though, they'll ask you if you have a preference for which arm to use. I'd recommend going with your non-dominant arm, but sometimes if your vein is better in the other arm, they may want to use that one. The nurse puts a tourniquet on and gives you a stress ball to squeeze so your vein is nice and plump. Then the needle goes in. There's usually a little sting but it's not too bad. After that you wait, squeezing the stress ball every so often. The donation is usually 470 mls and how long it takes depends on how fast your blood flows. For me it can be anywhere between five to fifteen minutes.
Finally, when the donation is done, you get to go out and have refreshments - your choice of juice, tea, coffee, biscuits, muffins etc, to give you some time to recover and a nice snack to boost your energy after giving blood.
All in all, it can take up to an hour, but it's not usually that long. I'd really recommend at least trying, even if you do get a little squeamish. I always think of my family when I'm giving blood. What if there was an accident and someone desperately needed blood, and they'd run out? It makes me shudder to think about it. Giving up one hour of your time every few months could save someone's life. For a few years my granddad had regular blood transfusions, and without them, he would have died a lot sooner than he did. We got those extra years with him because people were generous enough to give blood. So think about, and if you want to know more, check out the Red Cross website for more information.