I donated blood for the first time yesterday.
It wasn’t bad.
Sky Insurance, across the street from the Sky Service Center where I work, hosts a blood drive every so often. I’m not sure what made me decide to donate this time, after being eligible for 13 years and never having done it before. It just seemed like a simple thing, a no-brainer. I asked our department’s regular blood donor about the process, and we opted to make back-to-back appointments and walk over together.
I’d like to give a detailed account of everything that went on, just for my own journaling’s sake — but, honestly, it was pretty tame. Jess and I went in, read the blue binders of donor prerequisites and information (no, I haven’t visited the UK recently and gotten the bird flu or mad cow or some other fool thing, but thanks for asking), and finally were invited behind a privacy screen for our mini-physicals. Basically, they pricked my finger and checked my iron levels (which were declared safe enough to allow me to donate), took my blood pressure (which, from what I could tell, seemed to be 120-something over 88 or so), and had me answer the insipid questions I’d already read in the blue binder.
Then it was go time. I climbed up into the bed thingie and offered forth my right arm. Got swabbed with iodine a couple times, had tubing taped to me and a blood-pressure cuff wrapped around my arm, squeezed the squishy ball like the nice lady asked, and pointedly looked at the ceiling while she stuck me with the needle.
It wasn’t bad. At all.
The needle only stuck a little. I don’t have a “thing” with needles like *some* people I know (ahem), and I haven’t been to a doctor in years, but I know enough about myself and past needle experiences that I know I’m OK if I don’t know the exact moment of insertion. If I watch, I get all tensed up and it makes things worse. So, when I felt the moment coming, I looked up at the ceiling and let the nurse do her stuff.
The nurse, Michelle, had told me to squeeze the squishy ball every five to ten seconds. I was hesitant at first to squeeze it too hard; I could feel that there was a needle in my arm, even though it wasn’t painful, and I was worried that squeezing too hard might *make* it painful. After a while, though, I got up the nerve to squeeze a little harder than just with my fingertips, and it was just fine.
Then I got really brave, and took a look at my arm. Attached to it was a length of tubing. Clear tubing, made an oddly opaque red from the inside. From the blood coming out of the crook of my elbow. I could feel warmth where the tubing was lightly fastened to the inside of my wrist. It was strange. But I was OK with that. At that moment, I actually wished I’d brought the digital pocket camera to take a picture of my arm as I was donating blood, because I thought it looked so… unusual.
After a few minutes, I noticed that Jessica’s blood bag was starting to fill up. I wondered how the staff knew when the bag was full. As if on cue, the metal arm holding the blood bag tipped downward with a clunk. A balance scale! Not even a minute later, I felt my own stand clunk, and one of the attendants came to disconnect me. I don’t recall the exact sequence of events, but she took the blood that hadn’t made it into the bag and filled up several vials — for testing, presumably. Handy, that — very little wasted blood. Once she was done, she deftly removed the needle from my arm and pressed gauze to the puncture, telling me to apply pressure and hold my arm up over my head. No problem.
Jessica and I lay there on our elevated beds with our elevated arms, feeling only a little silly, with the Sky Insurance employees watching us through the windows from their smoke break outside. Then we got bandaged up — “This stays on for five hours,” the nurse said as she applied a standard-looking medical-grade Band-Aid. “This stays on for one hour,” she added, applying some folded gauze on top of the bandage and securing it with medical tape. She then instructed us to spend ten minutes at the “canteen” before we left.
One small bottled water and two chocolate-chocolate-chip cookies later, we were on our way back to work.
As we left the building, Jessica asked how often I’d given blood. When I told her this was my first time ever, she said she had no idea I hadn’t given blood before. Apparently, I was a “champ.” 🙂
I was a little fuzzy for the rest of the day, and I took a nap after work. The area inside my elbow didn’t bruise at all, though. Not even a little. I can still see the stick-mark, but it’s only sore when I deliberately press on it.
That wasn’t bad. I’m planning to do it again, next time Sky Insurance holds a blood drive. I could make this a habit.