Things you should know before giving blood

Recently, I reached my first milestone as a blood donor and made by fifth donation.  As ridiculous as it sounds, I’m incredibly proud of this milestone!  It’s not exactly taxing to sit in a chair with a needle in your arm but it feels to good to help others and even better when you do it five times!  I mentioned my accolade to practically every nurse who would listen like any modest, self respecting donor would.  I only quietened down when I met a gentlemen who kindly flattered my ego before informing me of his 68th donation . . . yeah, shut up Zoe.

Despite the obvious benefits, like genuinely being able to eat loads of biscuits guilt free for health reasons, donating blood is an amazing thing to do.  However, there’s solid evidence to suggest that the amount of blood donors are severely decreasing across the world . . . which is only mildly terrifying . . . No, you’re right, that’s utterly terrifying.  Let’s face it people, that’s a problem and a truly baffling problem at that because it can genuinely be solved so easily.  For some reason, less and less young donors are getting involved and it may genuinely come down to a fear of needles/ blood or health related issues.  In which case, no worries!  As the nurse said to my mum (who also can’t donate), you’re saving peoples lives by staying at home.  However, if this doesn’t relate to you and you’re a tiny bit curious then keep on reading.

I can appreciate that for those who’ve never given blood, the donation process can seem little bit mysterious.  As much as we all know the process will involve a nurse, a needle and blood, there isn’t a huge amount of content out there to show you exactly what happens.  Well, unfortunately folks, I can’t show you exactly what happens but I can come up with my personal top things to know about donating in the UK:

  1. The UK needs 6,000 daily blood donations in order to meet the needs of hospitals.  Yet, in 2015, The Guardian reported that there were 40% fewer new donors in the UK alone in the last decade, but don’t panic, you could help change this!
  2. In my experience, the nurses are usually really really nice!  After a long days work, I would expect some of the nurses to be tired and stressed, as I’m sure I would be if I were in their shoes.  Thankfully, the nurses have a lot more patience than me and have only ever provided friendly care.
  3. Most of your session will more than likely be spent reading a multitude of leaflets.  Literally, if Blood UK are lacking one thing it would not be leaflets!  However, the leaflets are really important because they’ll make sure you’re informed about the whole process.  Blood UK take every chance to make sure you’re ready for a donation.  Before you even get anywhere near the needle, they’ll send you a health form, check any questions with you on the phone and do a screening on the day of your donation. So if you’re worried about the spending ages with a needle in your arm, don’t be, that takes no time at all!  However, if you’re terrified of lots of laminated leaflets . . .
  4. If you want to keep occupied between the leaflet reading and donating, then I’d suggest bringing a book, some work or even a friend.  Although the process is pretty quick, there’s a little bit of waiting required as you go between different areas so you might as well bring something to entertain yourself with and make the most of your time.
  5. You’ll probably need to pee really badly after your donation because you would’ve drunk so much water!  In order to have a healthy experience, it’s integral to drink plenty of water the day before and the day of your donation.  Staying hydrated is never a bad thing and, in my experience, it’s honestly the key to having a great donation so drink as much as you can!
  6. All in all, the whole process takes about an hour.  That’s it.  One hour and you get to go home and get on with your life.  One hour and you’ve potentially changed someone’s life.
  7. When the process is finished and you’ve waved goodbye to your blood, you get the best reward . . . the biscuit table.  To ensure you leave the venue as healthy as possible, it’s really important to make sure your energy levels are high which requires tea and snacks!  This is honestly my favourite bit of the day, not just for the biscuits . . . ok maybe for the biscuits . . . but also because you get to chat to the other donors and nurses.  This is where I met Mr. 68th-Donor-Man and you’ll probably meet some interesting people here too.
  8. Blood UK have a really great app that allows you to track your previous and upcoming donations, as well as book more appointments.  I had real trouble getting into the swing of donating as I kept forgetting to book a slot.  However, this app has made a big difference and I’m now making regular donations.
  9. If you sign up for text notifications, Blood UK will send you a message a few weeks after your session informing you of which hospital has received your life changing donation.

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