Wednesday, August 15, 2007

I donated blood!

Yay! I finally did it. Today I donated blood. It was really awesome.

Everyone there was so nice and friendly and that made things really fun and easy because you're basically being waited on. I HIGHLY recommend that everyone donates blood. It's so stupid not to. It only takes an hour and you can only do it every 2 months and there is a blood shortage right now. Do you know what happens when they run out of blood? First the non-life threatening surgeries are cancelled and then people will start dying. As it is now they are shipping in blood from Quebec, which is a first for BC. So I'm totally going to keep doing this. It makes you feel really good.

The process is really easy too. You start off by being added to their database, your name and birthday and whatnot. You can even do this over the phone if you book an appointment, which by the way is a good idea, more people donate blood than I thought. Once you're there they start by pin pricking your finger to get a drop of blood to test your iron levels.

This is nothing, so all you whiners out there suck it up and don't be such a baby. Yeah it hurts for a split second, pretty much the same as if you poke yourself sewing. Diabetics do this several times a day and you don't see people choosing to die from diabetes rather than get a little startle of discomfort. I should also add that this is the most "painful" part of the whole procedure, unless of course you bump your knee on the desk or something, that would probably hurt more than anything Blood Services will do to you.

I thought the iron levels test was quite neat actually. They collect a drop of your blood in a pipette type thing and drop it into a liquid in a vial (it may have been water). In order to have good iron levels they simply see how long it takes the blood to fall to the bottom of the fluid. The more iron it has the heavier it is and faster it falls. I thought it was neat.

After that little test you fill out some health related questions and sit and watch Dr. Phil for 2 minutes. Then they take you into a private room and ask you some sex and drug related questions. They can be summed up to this: "Do you have AIDS? Are you a drug addict? Are you a whore?" After that they take your blood pressure and oral temperature (actually they did this first, my story is out of order :P) just to make sure you weren't lying on question number 1 "Are you feeling well today?" They even give you a chance to gracefully back out of telling the volunteer that you are in fact street trash. They leave the room and you place a bar code sticker onto the form saying either "Yes use my blood." or "No don't use my blood. Don't even touch it. I'm gross." Since it is a bar code no one can tell by looking at your form what you answered and you can still give blood with your friends without telling them you have AIDS.

Next comes the really fun part. Now it's time to actually give blood. You sit in a big comfy chair and they prep you for having blood taken. I'm not afraid of needles and was very curious as to everything going on around me and I never even saw it folks. At least not when they were getting it ready. They asked if I wanted to look away or not. I did. I figured I knew what they were doing and I didn't want to stress myself out because I was really excited and nervous. I wouldn't look away at someone else getting it done, I'm just not used to watching myself be injured and I didn't want to flinch or something.

After they put the needle in I looked at it. It is a wide needle but you don't feel much of anything. It hurts less than the finger prick because there are fewer nerves along your arm. The needle isn't very long though and they even covered it up with a little piece of gauze.

Then they start the flow of blood. My first reaction was surprise and how dark it looked. I don't have a lot of experience with seeing blood so I didn't really know what to expect. The blood is obviously dark because it's on its way back to the heart to be re-oxygenated, but it was still a really deep crimson. Like zombie blood or something. Anyway it's neat to see stuff like this and know what things look like in real life. I found it all very facinating and I asked lots of questions. The blood collects in a little bag below you and it rocks back and forth on a machine to keep it fluid and prevent in from clotting. Once they get enough to fill the bag and it automatically stops and they remove the needle (you can't even feel it) and you hold a little piece of guaze on it for 5 minutes and relax.

When your time's up you report directly to cookies and juice! They had ice cream earlier in the day but I missed it :( They gave my stickers and a pin and served me different flavours of juice and had lots of different cookies to choose, it was SO worth it. Everyone there is so nice I'm excited to go again in October.

I had my reasons for putting this off as long as I did so here's a little Q & A session of things I wondered about:

Q) After giving blood will I be tired and useless?
A) You'll be just as useless as you always are, just with something to blame it on. They say no heavy exercise for 6 to 8 hours after giving blood. I rode my bike home with no issues and I still feel fine for day to day stuff. I just won't be over doing anything.

Q) How much blood do they take?
A) The take 1 unit of blood which is 610 mL. They also take a bit extra for your lab tests. This really doesn't amount to very much depending on your size.

Q) Why do people's arms look all bruised or discoloured around where the needle was?
A) This is actually just iodine that they use to help sterilize the area around the needle. You really aren't doing anything bad to your body by giving blood.

Q) Why should I care enough to go out of my way to give blood?
A) What if someone you know needs it one day? Ah ha, I answered a question with a question. Seriously don't be lazy just go do it, it's fun and not so far out of your way. Bring friends and make an event of it. If you don't give blood you better be contributing to society in another way, because someone who is making progress could die because you didn't give them blood.

Q) What if I change my mind and want them to put the blood back in me?
A) ....? I never really asked that but I should of ;)

I'm really happy I did this. I feel really happy with myself. It really is the very least I can do with my life. If I don't make an impact on science, art, literature, or human evolution at least I can say I gave blood.

If you read this and aren't booking an appointment right now you better tell me what your reasons are and they better be good. I'll come with you if you like, so you really have no good excuse.


Syd said...

I'm afraid of needles and the sheer though of having life- fluid sucked out of me scares me to near hysterics.
So there.
Oh. . .and I need my soapbox back.
But I'm proud that you went to do it. What is your blood type? Are you super rare? Why can they not make blood by now? They can grow ears on the backs of mice - they can't simulate blood? Chop chop, scientists! We're waiting!

John Lucas said...

I was uncomfortable with the idea of allowing something of my body to be removed at first too. However after the first few minutes I realised just how silly that was.

It's just blood. It's a universal fluid. I don't care about saving my sweat. I don't think a camera is going to steal my soul. I don't care about losing a unit of blood in a manner that is painless and safe.

As for being scared of needles I say just deal with it. If you were in a car accident would you rather die than recieve blood? Well what if I was in a car accident? Would you let me die rather than give it?

Syd said...

I totally save my sweat - and no longer worry about camera's stealing my soul because that happened a long time ago - damage done, thank you very much "Mall Santa".
Isn't that why Jim Henson died? Because his religion does not allow blood transfusions or something? So - that having been said, I would only give my precious blood to Jim Henson or the like. If Nick Frost or Clint Eastwood or Ewan McGregor needed some blood - I'll be there. But I won't give my lovely cells to just any old rif-raff.