Monday, August 4, 2014
I understand most summers there ends up being a shortage of blood, as there is now. I want to describe it to those of you who may have never donated and are nervous.
You may see signs for a blood drive and most will take walk-ins but you can also go on the American Red Cross site and put in your zip code. You may be surprised just how many places close to you sponsor blood drives. Within these three weeks, there are three places within ten miles--and I live in the country.
When you get there, you will be greeted by a volunteer who will have you sign in and give you a loose leaf binder that you need to read and a short questionnaire. You will also have to show your ID. You will take a seat and read the binder which has questions in regards to certain medications, travel to foreign countries and things like that. You return the binder as soon as you are done and they will assign you a number. It is a good idea to bring a book in case there is a little wait.
When your number is called, you will be escorted to a little cubicle. This is the second time that you will be asked to verify who you are. If you have gum in your mouth, you will be asked to throw it away. They will pin prick your finger to test your iron levels. It does not hurt. Then they take your blood pressure and temperature.
You will be asked some questions and then depending on the nurse, you may get to sit at the computer and answer the remaining on your own. After you finished that, they will ask you if your prefer a certain arm as long as the veins look easily accessible in either. Mine are both good and I requested my right arm because I know you are not supposed to lift heavy things afterwards and I am left handed and I was going to pick up a few groceries (besides my heavy pocketbook).
You are led to a cot. There is a small step stool to help you get on the cot. Your head goes on a paper covered pillow. You will be again asked your name and date of birth. They will be busy labeling the tubes and bag that will collect your blood and whatever else they label. They scan the labels into their scanner.
If you brought a book to read, you can try to hold it up with one hand and read it while laying there. Don't bring a heavy hard cover. They will give you a rubber ball to squeeze in your other hand and ask you if you have an allergy to iodine. They then paint your arm around the vein with iodine.
Here comes the moment everyone dreads. "You will feel a pinch". I have had some so good that I didn't feel it go in and then I have others where I certainly did. Today I felt it and it was slightly uncomfortable for thirty seconds and then it wasn't noticeable. You start squeezing the ball gently (they did not tell me gently one time and I filled up the bag way quick!). This woman today said once every 2-5 seconds.
Now you get to lie there and read or count the ceiling panels or notice any abnormalities in the ceiling. You can glance around at the other people. One person was reading texts on his phone. You could close your eyes as long as you don't fall asleep and forget to squeeze the ball.
It doesn't take long before they tell you that you are done. You stop squeezing and they start detaching everything and more scanning. For some reason I was asked again my name--how could I have sneaked someone else in? They have you apply pressure with a gauze to the place where they took the blood and you leave your arm raised in the air for a couple of minutes.
Next they bandage it up. I was told to leave it on for 5 hours. They wipe off the iodine and if you don't feel dizzy, you can sit up and then go to the "canteen". This is a table with the rewards of your labor. Free juice, water and snacks. They vary according to where you give blood. I had cheesy crackers and apple juice today. Sometimes there are coupons or special rewards for your donation. They will also ask you if you want to sign up for the next blood drive. This one also had signs recruiting volunteers to work at these blood drives. It was funny that I was giving blood in a nearby town and when I got to the canteen, I sat next to one of my next door neighbors. It is a small world.
When you are ready, you can leave. The whole process took an hour for me. You are told to drink a lot of water, limit the caffeine and just to take it easy for a few hours. I have never had a bad experience or any ill side effects from giving blood. This is one little thing I can do to make a little difference, as the sticker says, or as the volunteer called it, "A badge of courage". It was not courageous. Courageous are the family members who stay at the hospital with their loved one who has had an accident or surgery or for some other reason that they will need blood. I hope that there will always be blood available when people need it and I hope that I have answered any questions that you may have had if you have never given blood. I feel I need to put in a disclaimer here. I am sure there are rare exceptions when things may not go so smoothly, but I have never seen that in all the times I have donated. It is only an hour of your time and a slight discomfort that outweighs the blessings that you are passing on to someone else. I hope to get into a pattern of giving as often as I can now that I have more time. I was afraid my years of donating were running out, but there is no age cap as long as you are healthy. I hope you will chose to make a difference too.