Everyone probably knows by now, that blood is one of the most important essences in the human body.
In folkloric myths you see blood in different perspectives, but all pretty much say the same thing: Blood is life.
The most prominent example for this would be the nowadays ever present vampires. They drink blood to survive, to keep themselves “alive” (how far this goes differs with each author, some even go as far as to give them reproductive abilities…).
But not just them. Even our regular selves are dependent on the red liquid.
If you ever got/get into a situation, where you lost/lose a high amount of it or simply have a disease where your own blood isn’t healthy enough, you are more than grateful to every volunteer that donated his or her blood.
Luckily I haven’t been in such a situation, but I can proudly say that I am one of the volunteers.
A lot of people are afraid of donating because of the big bad syringe.
But let me assure you: It’s not that bad.
Of course it hurts and of course it feels really odd when the needle enters your veins, but after that is done you don’t really feel anything.
But maybe I should start with explaining the procedure (at least how it is done here in Germany) before getting to the pain.
At first you have to sign in and/or give them your id and/or your donation pass so they can find you in their database. In Germany you have a pass called “Accident Aid and Blood Donation Pass” (“Unfall- und Blutspendeausweis“) that is given to you by the DRK (Deutsches Rotes Kreuz – German Red Cross) that holds not just your blood type, but also information on your last donations. However, so far every federal state has its own pass and identification number for a donor, but they are working on unifying that (Through donating in both Mecklenburg-Vorpommern and Schleswig Holstein I for one have two donor-ids).
While one person is checking your ids another one is checking your temperature and the amount of iron in your blood. The last one being done with a little needle-thing that pokes either your fingertip or your earlobe.
Next you have to fill out some forms concerning your health and than have to see a doctor. She or he then also checks your blood pressure and helps you through the questions you couldn’t answer yourself.
This person than decides whether you are allowed to donate.
Reasons, why one could not donate:
- You do not have enough or too much iron in your blood.
- You took “wrong” medicine (one you shouldn’t have taken previous to a donation, like pain killers).
- You are younger than 18 years or older than 69 years and older than 65 years when you first donate.
- You don’t feel well.
- You weigh below 50 kg.
- You don’t have a stable blood pressure.
- Your temperature is above 37,5°C.
- You didn’t eat and drink enough beforehand.
- You drank alcohol within the last 12 hours.
- You consumed drugs within the last 4 weeks.
- You got pierced or tattooed during the last 4 months.
- You had a larger operation within at least the last 4 months.
- You have already donated 6 (4 for women) times that year.
As you see some of these reasons are a bit odd, but they have to check stuff like that. You don’t want to get rubbish blood into your veins do you?
And if you are indeed wondering why women are only allowed to donate four times a year, have a little reminder that women lose quite an amount of blood each month without donating any of it…
Preparing the donation
In case you didn’t drink or eat enough, they have a lot of food and drinks with them, so you are asked to eat/drink previous to the donation.
Well, in any case you should drink around 1-2 litre before you participate. The blood just runs faster if it is more liquidized. Besides it helps you to better cope with loosing 500 ml of your life-force.
Are all the preconditions met and you are allowed to donate you decide which arm you want them to poke.
I’m mostly taking the left one for the donations as I am right handed, but some staff tell you that you have to change once in a while.
And then comes the point everyone fears:
The big bad syringe.
My advice: Just look to the side when it is put into your vein in the crook of your arm. It stings, but the pain will fade.
I do not like needles myself, so I can’t watch them being injected into my arm or I would clench that hard, that I definitely would have a bruise afterwards.
After it is injected you just have to pump (opening an closing your hand, they lend you a toy for that if you want) a bit till the plastic bag is full.
For everyone who will donate: Try to not move your hand for a second, you might be able to feel the blood flow, which is pretty cool.
The donation aftermath
Round about 5 to 10 minutes pass and you are ready to go to the buffet.
Yes you read correctly, there is food waiting for you for!
To get your system back to work they give you all kind of stuff. Preferably coke because of the sugar.
You spend there like 30 minutes and that’s about it. That’s the whole donation process.
But regardless of the food and drinks you get afterwards: If you feel dizzy or unwell: TELL the staff! They are there to take care of you and forcing yourself to get up when you feel like that, is the wrong thing to do. Believe me, I have just spent some time lying on the donation bed when my circulation system didn’t wanted to work properly again and everyone was being very kind. The staff is trained to handle situations like that and if they just leave you be, you shouldn’t be using that donation service/centre again.
If you ever come across a (professional, like from your version of the DRK) donation date. Just try it.
It is totally worth the time.
You get a health check (as they have to check your blood before releasing it into the blood banks and they will notify you if something is wrong), you do something good and you might learn your blood type – if you don’t already know it (I first donated because I wanted to know mine).
Still, you shouldn’t go there merely for the food (or money as some facilities offer a little reward).
You should go there to help other people.
Especially if you have a rare type of blood. Like I do more or less, for example.
With my O positive (It’s a zero – 0 – not an O, but as you can see it looks odd) blood I can provide a donation for everyone, but I myself am only able to get donations by other O positive people.
So maybe I’m only doing this, so I have a slight chance that there will be blood if I need some.
Interesting fact: With blood plasma it’s the other way round. I can get everyone’s plasma but cannot give anyone except other O’s.
Fun fact: In the Japanese culture they judge people by their blood type and apply traits to them. For my blood type it is said that I am agreeable, sociable and optimistic, but also vain, rude, jealous and arrogant.
What lovely traits…well, I have to admit, that some of them are true, while others aren’t that much.
But I wont tell you which ones. You would have to figure that out yourself.
Anyhow, I did not donate that much yet. Only five times.
So all this talk about donating seems to be pretty much contradictory in my case.
But I know people that are donating on a regular basis, that even give away their blood plasma (Even though it’s more for the money than the good cause).
I think it’s a good idea to donate what will be rebuild anyway and as long as it helps others it’s a good thing to do.