I’ve been putting off giving blood for a while. Ever since my younger brother had cancer as a child (fine now btw) my parents have donated when they could. Because of this, I promised myself I would too (when I was eligible). However, I didn’t plan on having anxiety (silly me) so I always put it off.
I’ve booked myself a couple of appointments in the past, but I’ve always cancelled them when they got close (classic!). However, I finally kept and committed to an appoint and I donated blood on Thursday.
So, I drove to the neighbouring village to where I live, and arrived around 5 minutes before my appointment (14:30). I was greeted with ‘thanks for coming’ which was nice to hear. I sat in the waiting area and drank from my water bottle (around 600ml to be exact) as apparently around 50% of the blood donated is water so it’s important to be hydrated. Drank too fast, need a wee. Went and had one. Nice toilets.
I was then taken behind a curtain to discuss the questionnaire you had to fill in before arriving. It’s basically to check you don’t have AIDS or anything. Everything was fine after they were happy the CBD oil I take was okay (they didn’t even know what it was…). They pricked my finger to test my iron levels, all good too (people say this is the worst bit, oh just you wait!).
So, off to another waiting area to get ready to be called. I need another wee, but I thought I would wait. A couple minutes later, I’m in the chair and having my arm cleaned, getting prepped for the needle. They advise that you tense and untense your buttock muscles whilst donating to maintain pressure and stop feeling faint.
Disclaimer: Stop reading here if you’re squeamish.
The needle goes in and the nurse stands over me for 5 minutes to make sure everything is okay. She encourages me to open and close my fist to maintain blood flow. I (and she) assumes everything is fine and goes to see to another donor. Around another 5 minutes passes and a different nurse walks past, checking on donors. She stops and observes me. She looks concerned. She looks over at another nurse and see her whisper ‘yeah, the colour’. Then, the nurse who made the initial observation came back over and said, ‘right, we’re going to take this out now.’
She removes the needle and it hurt. I could taste blood in my mouth too. The nurse tilts the chair back and applies pressure to where the needle was just removed. I knew something was wrong as soon as she made her first observation (I’m quite vigilant), but they were doing my best to keep me calm. Obviously I’m trying not to panic at this point, but my heart is racing and I’m getting sweaty. They tilt the chair forward and hand me a leaflet.
The head nurse, in a soft and calm voice, says, ‘Right, this is what has happened today.’ She doesn’t actual say it, she just points to the leaflet that is titled ‘Arterial Puncture’. Brilliant I thought. Panic I felt. She then read through the leaflet that explained what to do and when to go to A&E (accident and emergency). I was now getting hotter, getting sweatier, feeling sick. They noticed, and tilted the chair back, got me a sick bowl and put an ice pack round my neck. I gagged, but didn’t throw anything up. Now at this point, I don’t know if it was anxiety or the lack of blood in my system that made me feel like this, probably a mixture.
I was feeling better around 5 minutes later, so they tilt me back up and apply a tight dressing to my arm (the bleeding has stopped at this point). I’m told at this point that if I come back and donate again, they wouldn’t use my left arm again, ever. I get the feeling this isn’t very common.
I drink some more water and eventually make my way over to the refreshment table where you’re encouraged to have a snack and more fluids. After eating a bag of crisps, I make my way out and drive home.
So, what are the takeaways from this experience? Don’t let this put you off. I’m sure this is very uncommon (it just happened to happen to me on my first donation) so don’t worry. Other people rack up 50 donations with no issues, so if you’re thinking about donating, please go! I also hope that my blood can actually be used. I’m not a doctor, so I don’t know if blood drawn from an artery instead of a vein has different properties (it’s obviously more oxygenated), but I hope everyone’s time, blood and sweat (no tears luckily) weren’t wasted. Lastly, I think its important to remember that if that’s one of the worst things that can happen, it wasn’t actually that bad.
A quick shout out to the nurses who looked after me once they noticed something was wrong. Very caring and professional. To the nurse who first put the needle in and stood over me for 5 minutes, please try and be more careful with first time donors!
See you later.