This is a little hard for me to admit, but I’ve never donated blood before and I don’t even have a good reason for not donating. It was one of those things that I kept intending to do, but never got around to actually booking an appointment and doing it. I’ve always been a generally anxious person, so the thought of doing something that involved strangers, needles, and blood was scary to me. Really though, after having three children, I don’t think that excuse should apply anymore. It wasn’t until a friend became seriously ill that I finally found the motivation and courage to book that long overdue appointment to give blood.
When I got the horrible news that my friend Marilyn from A Lot of Loves was in a medically-induced coma after suffering post-surgical complications, I wanted to do something to help. I told the group of VancouverMom.ca Top Mom bloggers about what had happened to Marilyn, and together we came up with the idea of a blog carnival in Marilyn’s honour, to promote blood donation. If it weren’t for blood donors, Marilyn’s story may have turned out differently. She ended up receiving well over 100 units of blood, and is now awake and recovering in hospital.
The blood donation process wasn’t as bad as I feared it would be. I went to Canadian Blood Services and first of all checked if I was eligible to donate.
- To donate, you must be at least 17 years of age, in general good health, and feeling well on the day of your donation.
- You must weigh at least 50 kg (110 lb).
- The minimum time between blood donations is 56 days (8 weeks).
- You must have a hemoglobin of at least 125 g/L.
- You must wait until the day after a dental cleaning or filling, and 72 hours after a tooth extraction, root canal or dental surgery.
- If you’ve had a cold, flu or sore throat you must recover fully before donating.
- If you’ve had ear or body piercing or tattooing, you must wait at least six months before donating.
Check, check, check. Everything looked good! I went ahead and booked an appointment online. I saw that there was a clinic at my kids’ school on the weekend, so I picked a free time slot and scheduled it.
Tony was away on a guys’ weekend RV trip, which meant I had to find someone to watch the kids. Luckily, a good friend of mine was on vacation and didn’t have plans, so she stayed with the kids while I went to my appointment.
Apparently, most people bring someone with them for their first time donating, or so the nurse told me. I was by myself, but the people there were really nice and did their best to make me feel comfortable. I think they must be trained to give the donors lots of compliments, because two different people commented on how young I looked. One told me a looked too young to be married, and another was surprised when I told him my age because he thought I might be under 23. I wish! It makes me want to go back and donate again just for the compliments.
The first step was to get my finger pricked for a hemoglobin test. That wasn’t too bad for me, since I had to do a lot of finger-pricking when I had gestational diabetes.
Next, I filled out a questionnaire with questions about medication, travel and sexual history. I take Cipralex for anxiety, so I mentioned that on my questionnaire. I was told that SSRIs are fine to take as a blood donor, in case you were wondering.
After filling out the form, I had my blood pressure and pulse checked. I was anxious (as usual!) so my pulse was quite high. The man who was taking my pulse told me I had to relax because I couldn’t give blood unless my heart rate was under 100. It was up around 112. He was really great, telling me to take deep breaths and trying to make me laugh to calm me down. When he checked my pulse again, it was down to 84. Phewf! He told me to go have some juice and then I could have my blood drawn.
I sat down and had some mango juice, and then I was ready to give blood. The phlebotomist was very sweet and told me exactly what she was going to do, making sure that I was aware that I could stop at any time. It is completely voluntary, after all. My veins are really tiny, but she finally got the needle in and was surprised that my blood flow was so good for having such small veins.
It took less than 15 minutes to draw the 1 pint of blood needed. The nurse and others kept asking if I was okay. I’m not sure if that’s because I looked like I was going to faint, or if it was just standard procedure to check on the donor frequently, but it was nice that they asked. One of the workers noticed my hand was cold so he brought me a rubber glove full of hot water to hold onto. How thoughtful is that?
When I was finished, he helped me get up slowly and walked me over to the snack table. I felt like everyone’s eyes were on me, just waiting for me to topple over. I must have looked really pale and frail, but I’m tougher than I look. I felt perfectly okay. I sat down beside another donor, who told me I did really well for a first-timer, and that she’d seen people faint before. I’m sure glad that I didn’t!
A volunteer came over to me and gave me a pin for my very first blood donation. It’s so nice to have a token to remember my experience donating blood, and to remind me to continue to donate from now on.
I felt fine until I got home and had to take care of three hyper kids on my own. By the time I got them into bed, I was ready for bed myself! I didn’t realize how tired I would feel after giving blood. Next time I’ll make sure Tony is around to watch the kids so I can relax afterwards. By the next day, I had my energy back, so it didn’t keep me down for long.
I hope that sharing my story will inspire others who’ve been thinking of donating blood to get out there and donate. Even if you aren’t eligible to donate, you can still help by raising awareness or volunteering.
Below is a list of posts from the bloggers participating in the Blood Donation Blog Carnival. Please help us spread the word about this important cause. Do you have a story about donating or receiving blood that you’d like to share? Join us! We’re using the hashtags #bloggersforblood and #alotoflovesformarilyn.