Today, I did something good. I rolled up my sleeve and ticked #59 off the bucket list. I donated my blood.
Having been a nurse for the last two and a half years, I’ve come to realise the true importance of blood donations. I mean, you see it constantly advertised on the the tv commercials about how the world needs more blood donors to keep up with the demand. So I always knew it was important, but being the one to first-hand witness the life-saving ability of a blood transfusion really put it all into perspective as to just how much.
A part of my job is to be apart of a portfolio within my unit. This means we all have specific roles and aspects of nursing and patient care that we devote our knowledge and effects towards. Mine is Blood Safety. Every month we have a portfolio meeting and we talk about any updates to blood transfusion policies in the hospital setting, and the dramatic increase in demand for blood products world wide. The numbers alone are astounding.
Unfortunately, we need blood more than what we have. And by more, I mean a lot. There just aren’t enough donors, and we’re using more than we are collecting. So when my multi-traumas come in, and need multiple units of blood, it’s really impacting the system.
My portfolio encourages people to donate, attempting to rally the troops and find some sort of way to make a small difference (even if just locally). But having never donated blood myself, I’ve been a bit of a fraud. So it found itself as an item on my bucket list to donate blood.
They say for every donation, your blood saves three lives. And they’re not wrong. Your blood matters more than you realise. I’ve only come to know this by being a nurse, and the countless times I’ve run down to pathology to get a bag of blood to save someone’s life. Your blood really is worth bottling, if you’ve never been exposed to Mad Cow Disease that is!
So, in the attempt to make a difference, I booked in to donate my own liquid gold.
In the days leading up to the donation, the staff from the blood donation clinic rung me almost daily to make sure I didn’t have any questions about my first time donation. In fact, they had contacted me so much that for a moment there I was a little concerned at what I had agreed to give. I had agreed to donate just my blood right? Not a kidney? I was becoming so suspicious, I started double reading through the emails!
When I arrived to the clinic, the girls at the receptionist desk gave me a form to fill out. Despite it’s lengthy composition of five pages worth of questions, I managed to tick and flick all the right answers and made it through the interview to the blood donor circle in less than 10 minutes.
I never realised how in depth the screening was for blood donation, but I guess that makes a lot of sense considering how careful you have to be with blood. Apparently, my blood really was liquid gold. I was good to go!
They asked me whether I had had enough water enough times to make me question whether the two litres was, in fact, enough. So when they offered me another bottle of water, I thought I better. And later regretted my decision.
The lady called my name and I followed her through to the chair. She gave me a soft red blanket to keep my cosy and a sparkly red sticker proudly displaying a happy-faced blood drop who seemed to be congratulating me on my first donation. So far, so good.
Before long, another lady arrived at my side to warn me that she was about to cannulate my arm and if this was going to make me squeamish that I should look away now. Me, thinking to myself , “Hell no, I’m a nurse, this is what I do, go for it”. Also me, thinking to myself two seconds later, “Hell no. That thing is the size of my actual vein, probably not as okay with this as I thought”.
Despite the metal rod hanging out of my arm and a regrettably full bladder, I managed to avoid any queasiness and focussed on spinning the red squeezy brick around in the palm of my hand. This was a harder task than it initially seemed as my blood flow stubbornly slowed to the speed of a Sunday afternoon driver, and I was quite quickly losing any sort of blood flow to my left hand. If I were to describe the scene, it looked a lot like me staring intently at my left hand as if trying to telepathically make it move like I know my brain was instructing it too, slightly panicking as the pins and needles sensation was replaced with an overall iciness.
The girls would smile at me and say, “Just keep turning the red brick around in your hand”. And I would smile back politely, despite the very real and irrational fear that my hand might just drop off altogether.
It took twenty minutes instead of the usual ten to squeeze enough blood out of me to fill four bags, but that was thanks to my snail-like blood delivery system. And in the grand scheme of things, it actually felt over and done with more quickly than I thought, leaving me with a “Is that all it is?” feeling. I also managed to leave with all limbs and organs – so that was a bonus in itself.
When I walked out of the donation room, I was met by a little old lady who told me to help myself to the wall of food that stood behind her. From cookies to chips, meat pies and chocolate – the choice was mine. Replenish, is what she said with a giggle in response to my widening eyes. So much delicious free food, I didn’t even know where to start. I could get used to this blood donating thing, that was for sure.
Fed and watered, I finally was ready to leave feeling rather impressed at myself for not having passed out in the whole process. I waved goodbye to the little old lady who much like a grandmother insisted I have something else, and walked out into the sunshine feeling pleased to have done what I could to help someone else.
The most wonderful part is that I have never felt so appreciated in my whole life. The girls there make you feel like you have done something really spectacular, for doing something I originally thought was pretty average. Not one person neglected to congratulate me, or thank me for donating my blood at any stage of the day. They honestly made me feel like a superhero, and I became embarrassed because I really didn’t think I deserved it!
So heres the part where I encourage you to donate too if you can. It takes less than 10 minutes (if your veins are more cooperative than mine, that is), and you can acquire the honour of calling yourself a super hero for the rest of the day – because that’s what you are. In ten minutes you can save the lives of three people alone, and in my books, that it definitely something worth doing.
And if the ‘saving someones life’ plug hasn’t got you convinced, then at least do it for the giant chocolate chip cookie.
#59 – Donate Blood: Check!