I know that there are a lot of people out there who have thought about donating blood. I am also aware that there are a lot out there who are hesitant to donate; after all I am sure we all know someone who has fainted when they’ve gone to donate.
I went to donate for the 5th time today and want to share my experience with you. I hope that this can relieve some of your concerns and maybe answer some questions you may have.
Blood is a precious resource that we all need. Every donation is essential to saving lives. That being said, it’s important to be honest when donating to ensure that you are not harming anyone (like a little baby) with your donation. If you go to Canadian Blood Services website, you can find of the criteria that it takes to be eligible to donate.
While at the site, you can book your appointment for your donation. Please be sure to give yourself plenty of time to donate. Depending on how many people are at the clinic and how quick you are able to fill the bag, it may take a couple of hours.
There are a few other ways that you can book your appointment as well: by phone (1-888-2-DONATE), stopping by the clinic or with their GiveBlood app.
Donating blood is beneficial to the donator as well. When you donate blood they send you a donor’s card that labels your blood type. This could save you time if you are ever in need of blood because they won’t need to do any tests, just look at your card. It is also an emotional boost to know that you are helping others in difficult situations.
Before going to donate it is important to make sure that you eat plenty of healthy food and fluids. Iron is important to have as you cannot donate if your levels are low. The more hydrated you are, the easier it is to donate and the easier it is to recover. This will also reduce the chance of feeling faint during the process.
When you get to the clinic for your appointment, you check in at the desk by the door. They give you an information sheet that you really should read. It will go over important information about your donation and what to do after (like drink a lot of water to help get your blood level back to normal).
At the first stop they will confirm your contact information in their system and check your hemoglobin levels (iron). This is my least favourite moment. They give your finger a tiny prick and it always makes me jump.
Stage 2 is the screening portion of the experience and involves a questionnaire. You go to a desk to answer the first half of the questions yourself. A nurse then goes with you into a private room to go over any question/concerns related to those questions, ask additional questions and get your stats (temperature, blood pressure, weight if needed). Some of the questions may seem odd or funny but they are ensuring the safety of your donation. The nurse is not there to judge you so please be 100% honest in your response. You will not be arrested in admitting that you’ve done illegal substances or paid for sex. It’s purely for the health of those receiving the blood.
Stage 3 is actually donating your blood. You can chose which arm you would like to use. The nurse will talk you through the process of finding a vein, disinfecting the site, inserting the needle and squeezing a stress toy to increase flow. Donations can take anywhere from 4 minutes to 16 minutes. If you have not filled the bag by 16 minutes then they will take your partial donation. This is what happened to me today and I made the point to ask if it will be used. I was assured that it will indeed be used for someone who needs it. Once you’ve completed the donation you do need to stay in the chair for 5 minutes to ensure that you are not feeling faint. You will notice that a lot of people will check in with you. If you feel unusual at all please tell one of the nurses. They can tilt your chair to help the blood flow to your head to reduce risk of fainting as well as bring you juice to keep your sugars high enough.
Stage 4 involves a lot of cookies! There is a canteen that you can get cookies, juice, pop and other goodies while donating. There is also a soup option but I do not recommend eating that. The heat in your stomach causes the blood to rush to your stomach, often making someone feel light headed or cause fainting.
Depending on what part of your blood that you are donating affects how often you can donate. It is 56 days between whole blood donations, 14 days for platelets and 7 days for plasma.
It is an experience that I will continue to sign up for and I hope that others will too. It is incredibly fulfilling.
If there are any questions that I can answer to help someone decide if this is for them, please let me know. I will be sure to answer.