First time donating blood: My Experience & Advice!

If you are looking to donate blood but you’re afraid because big needles are a horrifying and squeemish thought, then you do not need to worry, honestly. It’s not as bad as you think it is. Here is my experience!

I was feeling super ballsy one evening and thought to myself: ‘I promised my friend I would donate blood; let me book an appointment!’ so I took myself over to the NHS Blood Donor website and registered my details and booked my appointment – and because I was too scared to do it on my own, I signed my boyfriend up too and told him afterwards! I knew he wouldn’t mind.

I was feeling quiet confident after I booked my appointment for July 1st 2016. I knew I would be saving a life by donating blood, so at first I was kinda excited. However, when the day came, I started to feel really nervous and a little bit panicky! I am very nervous when it comes to the unexpected.

St George’s Hospital NHS Blood Donor Centre in Tooting, London (if you don’t know what hospital it is, it’s one of the main hospitals featured on 24 Hours in A&E that broadcasts on Channel 4) was where I chose to go. My boyfriend (obviously) and my friend came with me for moral support. As soon as I was outside the centre, I probably couldn’t have felt any more nervous if I tried. It was silly of me, because I had nothing to be worried about, but it was the fear of the needle – it horrified me!

I had to keep repeating ‘You’ve got this far! Don’t back out now!!’ to myself so I didn’t just run straight out the door in the opposite direction, crying like a little baby because I was petrified of having a little metal needle put in my skin – how lame does that sound? Like.. really?

I nervously went up to the reception desk and told her both my boyfriend and I were donating blood and had appointments. She asked my name, I told her and she gave me a sheet to fill out, and some leaflets to read – while I enjoyed their selection of their beverages; I enjoyed a lovely blackcurrant juice, and my boyfriend did the same.

Filling out the form is super simple and should take about 10 minutes if you don’t keep getting distracted like I did. I will be honest here – I didn’t really concentrate on the booklet that I was meant to read, because it was basically what I had researched anyway and I was more concerned about getting on with it. However, if you haven’t done a lot of research, definitely take the time to read the booklet they give you, because it has some valuable information that you need to know.

I waited another 10 minutes and got called for my consultation with one of the staff. It was pretty routine, just asked me to confirm my D.O.B, address etc and asked me if I had eaten enough and had enough to drink. She got on to taking a pin prick of blood from my middle finger on my left hand to test my iron levels were okay in order to have blood taken. I looked away when she did that and it wasn’t bad at all – it only hurt a little bit.

Waiting for a further 10 minutes, I was called to donate blood. Unfortunately for me and everyone else out there, you can’t have anyone around you when they are inserting the needle – which I assume is just for health and safety reasons.

Fortunately for me though, the man that was taking my blood was actually really friendly. We chatted generally about different topics, such as my degree, what I liked to watch, etc. I told him I was afraid of needles too so I was just going to look away when he was going to put it in. And kindly, before he was about to, he worned me so I could look away.

It honestly does not hurt as much as people think it does. Sure, the needle looks long, big and scary, but if you look away and concentrate on something else, you will probably barely feel it.

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NOTE: NOT FOR THE FAINT HEARTED! This is what it looked like and this is how I had to have my arm when the blood was being taken. It took about 5-10 minutes.

 

I don’t know if anyone is like me where they have a fear of the needle going in to the skin, more than it actually being there; but once that part was done, I was absolutely fine. I literally had to sit in my chair for a very short amount of time to get the 470ml (just under a pint) of my blood.

After the removal of the needle, they gave me a type of cotton pad to press against the wound to stop the bleeding so they could put the dressing on aferwards. It was pretty simple, a sticky cotton pad, with a circular piece of polystyrene tapped on top.

It is advised to keep the polystyrene on for at least half and hour after giving blood and then take the sticky cotton pad off after six hours. I did as instructed, but taking off the cotton pad was so difficult because it had been tapped to my hair on my arm, so everytime it would pull on them – ouch!

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This was the bruising I was left with – but in all fairness, I bruise SO easily (I feel like that is a side effect of being a ginger!) My boyfriend didn’t bruise at all.

It took my bruising about 2 weeks to completely dissappear, but I was okay with that. I knew I donated for a good cause, so it was kind of like my battle scar in a way. (Cool, right?)

As I had a good pint of blood taken from my body, the staff there directed me to the sweets and drink section to get back the energy I had lost. However, as I am a little bit stupid, I thought I could handle donating blood when I had hardly eaten anything previously, so about two minutes afterwards, I started feeling really faint and sick. I didn’t pass out – thank goodness! However, I did have to lay down for a while to get the blood back up to my head.

I should have eaten a lot before I came to donate. I seriously underestimated how important it is to eat and drink before donating. So if you are considering it, then please, please, please, eat everything and drink a lot of sugar – because your body will need it. I know I will be next time!

I would honestly, strongly advice donating blood. It is so so important to save the lives of others when they really need it.
It only takes 10 minutes for you to give the amount needed, so what’s your excuse? Just imagine if it was you who needed blood to survive, or a family member – you would want people to donate to save you or your families life, and that’s how someone else will feel.

Even if you hate needles – you should at least try and donate once and see how you go because at least with one blood donation, you would have saved someone’s life – and that is a pretty priceless feeling if you ask me!
If you’re scared or nervous like I was, then bring a friend for the support like I did, it really does help. I am a big baby when it comes to needles, I really hate them, but if I did it and I am now going to be a regular blood donor,  then you can too. Just go for it! It honestly isn’t as daunting as you may think.

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I got this card shortly after donating and now I carry it around with me with pride. I am saving lives, are you?

For more information on how to give blood, visit the NHS Blood Donor website here.

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