Fairytale Fantasy

Saturday, 12 September 2015

Give Blood, Save Lives.

On Tuesday 8th September 2015, I did something that I never thought that I would have the guts to do. On my own free will, I walked into a hospital and let a nurse take just under a pint of my blood. For as long as I can recall, I've hated blood. I always feel queasy and weak with anything to do with the biology of my body. In middle school I had to be taken out of a talk on menstruation because the teachers were convinced I was about to throw up.
When I told my mother that I was planning to give blood she fell silent. She was supportive, but she wasn't able to hide the doubt in her voice. ''I thought you hated needles?'' she asked. ''I do'' I replied. More silence.
Since I was 17 (the age you can first give blood in the UK) I've past the posters for blood drives and felt filled with guilt. I knew I should be helping, but I couldn't face the prospect of the process. On Sunday night, when I had just moved back to uni, something struck me hard. I realised something important. The thing is, its not about whether I hate needles, or the fact that the idea of giving blood makes my entire body turn to jelly and force me to lie down for a while. Those are just excuses, and selfish ones at that. Giving blood directly saves people's lives. Without it, half the health service would grind to a halt. Millions of people would be affected. And in the UK, only 4% of the population are giving blood. That's not enough. That night as I was falling asleep it dawned on me that the whole process would only last around half an hour, And then I would be able to continue with my life, exactly as I had been before. Except that afterwards, my donation could help three people, changing their lives for the better. After I figured that out, it was a no-brainer. 
I was still unbelievably nervous. I had a wee panic attack the night before, crying myself to sleep. But on the Tuesday I got up, ate breakfast and headed off to the hospital. I was there for about an hour. When you arrive you start filling out some paperwork, answering basic health questions. You're given water to drink, as you need to have enough fluid to replace that which you will lose. Afterwards you go into a private room and answer more questions. These are a bit more personal, as they need to know things about your health and sexual history. Then they do a hemoglobin test where they prick your finger (its all very Sleeping Beauty). 
Then they drop the blood into a solution and see if it sinks at a fast enough speed (less fairytale-like), which is important for scientific reasons I was too nervous to understand at the time. If all's well, they take you through to a the chair, strap you up and insert the needle. I looked away at this part, and the pain was minimal and over in a second. The length of time it takes to take enough blood from each person varies, but I think the average is about 10-15 minutes. 
It's odd, but I felt strangely calm at this point. I even watched the blood going into the bag. You sort of forget its your blood. Before you know it, the machine beeps to tell the nurse you're all done, the needles out and your bandaged up. Afterwards you get more fluids and biscuits (score! My friend Rachel did ask if I was just doing this for the free tea...) and when the nurse is happy you're not going to pass out you're free to go! So unbelievably simple and easy. In the UK, you're allowed to donate every 12 weeks if you're a man, and every sixteen weeks if you're a woman (due to something about our body taking longer to replenish iron levels). I'm booked in to donate again in January, and I'm weirdly looking forward to it. The NHS have really pimped out their website, allowing you to book appointments online. You can even do it through their app. The site has all the information you need, from whether you're allowed to donate to who your donations help.
You can check it out here.
I've written this post for two reasons. One, because donors are desperately needed, especially from the younger population (ie. the majority of my blog readers) for the sustainability of the donor base. And secondly, to share how easy and non-scary the process was, despite all my fears. I'm not trying to bully you to donate, but when you think about the good it does I feel foolish for avoiding it for so long.
Let me know if you've ever given blood, or know someone who's benefited in the comments below, I'd love to hear your stories!
Soph x

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