Newest Review: ... pretty easy, as can vary a little depending on whether it is your first, or fifteenth time. You are always required to fill out a health ... more
Member Name: lynton1983
Advantages: It could help save someone's life.
Disadvantages: Absolutely none.
I have been giving blood for about three years now and thought I would just write a few words on the process and my experiences having recently given my seventh donation.
If I'm honest I cannot remember why I decided to start giving blood. I think one day I just asked myself if I could come up with a good reason why I shouldn't and then when I had nothing I decided to book myself an appointment and see how I got on. I say good reason as I really do not like needles and the whole concept of one being placed in my arm but I don't have a fear of them or anything like that so I wasn't accepting this as a good enough excuse!
To book my first appointment I visited www.blood.co.uk (you will find a lot of information on here and hopefully answers to most questions potential donors may have. There is also a lot of interesting information including the current stock levels of the various blood types). The website is very straightforward and easy to use and navigate and you will be able to find the dates, times and locations near to your home or work or wherever suits.
My first appointment was at a nearby church. On arrival I was greeted and when it became apparent it was my first time, one of the nurses went through the procedure with me which involves reading one of two folders dependant on whether you are a first timer or a returning donor, filling out a questionnaire which asks you a number of questions including about your health, sexual experience and where you have travelled in the past year. Whilst some of these questions might seem invasive, it is obviously necessary to determine whether there might be any implications and problems with the blood that you donate. I have been sent back once before without being able to donate as I had recently been to the Dominican Republic which is a country deemed a malaria risk so as a precaution you are required to wait six months before being eligible to donate again. In order to avoid this in the future, when I am due to give blood, if I have been somewhere on holiday that I think may carry a risk I telephone and check to save myself a wasted journey.
When you have registered and given your first donation, every 16 weeks (approximately 4 months) you will receive a letter inviting you to donate again. This will have the same questionnaire that you filled out on your first visit so you can do this at home to save time at the place where you donate. You can then phone or go online to make an appointment or just simply turn up on the date. Obviously if you make an appointment you can manage your time better as there can sometimes be a wait for those with no appointment. On my last visit the whole process lasted about an hour and a half (it normally takes 30-40 minutes) and this was due to staffing shortages. If for whatever reason you are not able to make the donation session (in my experience you will be invited to attend the location where you donated on your last visit) on the date you were invited, you will receive another letter approximately every two weeks inviting you to attend. Contained within this letter is a leaflet that advises you of the times and dates of other local sessions that may be more convenient.
Now onto the donation itself. The specifics of what happens may be slightly different depending on the location but I would expect the processes to be identical. Having read your folder and filled in your questionnaire, the next step is to have a brief private chat with one of the nurses where they ask you any questions that are relevant to the answers on your questionnaire, such as where you may have travelled, you then sign a declaration and have a blood iron test. Your middle finger on either hand (cannot have a ring on it) is then pricked and a small sample of blood is taken and dropped into a solution to check the iron levels. If they are too low for whatever reason you will not be able to donate. This process is completely painless and you will hardly notice your finger has been pricked. If you are slightly squeamish you can always look away as the nurse will squeeze your finger to ensure there is a drop of blood that can be used. This is sucked up in a very small pipette and dropped into the solution. Again, this is not something I enjoy (I suppose not many necessarily would) but it is the idea of what happens rather than what actually happens (if that makes sense!) that I don't particularly like!
Once everything is ok here you then go into another room where there will be numerous beds hopefully all being used by people donating. You may be asked or invited to take a good drink of water to ensure you remain hydrated given that they will be removing a quantity of fluid from you. You will then wait until called to a vacant bed. The nurse will then ask you what are you wish to donate from and you will lie down ready to go. As a security, throughout the different stages you will be asked your date of birth and possibly your home address. Once they are happy you are who you say you are you will have a strap placed on your arm which is inflated to put pressure on your veins to make it easier for the nurse to find with the needle. The nurse will then rub an anaesthetic solution onto the area and leave this for a few moments. The next stage is then for the needle to be inserted. Again my experience is that this is a pain free experience and, as you will be warned, all you really feel is a little pinch. At worst the experience is uncomfortable rather than painful. To be honest I tend to look away whilst this is being done! In total just under a pint of blood is taken. At the start of the donation the nurse will attach some small vials to the tubes to collect a small amount of blood (I believe this is what is screened to check everything is healthy). After this you will be left whilst the donation continues with a nurse visiting you periodically just to check on you. When I am donating I have been told my blood comes out quite quickly so I usually take about 5-6 minutes. I think the process generally takes 5-10 minutes. When nearing the end of the donation I sometimes experience a dull ache in my arm but again this is in no way painful. Once the required amount of blood has been taken a small alarm will alert a nurse that you are done and they will then remove the needle and place a plaster on your arm. You will be asked to sit on the bed for a minute or two before being told you are done and invited to go and take some complimentary refreshments which consists of a drink, hot or cold, and a selection of biscuits, crisps and chocolate.
As a small thank you for your donations there is also a reward scheme for regular donors when you reach milestones such as your 5th, 10th, and 25th donations. My opinion is that this is unnecessary but if it leads to more people getting involved then it would be worth it.
As I stated at the start, I began donating as I had no reason not to. On average it is probably only going to take up 3 or 4 hours of your life each year so I do not think that is a lot of time to do something so charitable. There is currently a campaign running regarding organ donors and asks something along the lines that if you would be happy to receive an organ from someone, does it not seem right to therefore list yourself as a potential donor? I think this is a valid question when it comes to blood donation as well. This small thing that I do does give me a little sense of satisfaction thinking that I might be helping someone at a time when they really need it and for me that's enough!
There will be many more questions that potential donors may have and I would strongly advise looking at the blood.co.uk website for the answers.
Summary: A simple process that's worth considering.