In my last post, I researched the process of donating blood and the restrictions that apply to it in preparation for me to give on Friday. Well, I did it!
My experience with giving blood was a remarkably positive one. I walked into the center and read through their eligibility requirements (again) just to make sure I could give. I signed a form, then was taken to one of a number of canvas enclosures constructed for privacy.
A nurse took my vitals; apparently I have very iron-rich blood. The girl in the enclosure next to me, though, wasn't able to give because of an iron deficiency. She was justifiably upset; your iron levels fluctuate on a day-to-day basis. She would have to wait 24 hours before giving, and the drive was only on campus for one day only.
I then was directed to a laptop, where I answered their eligibility questions. After being asked about my "yes" answers (I've been out of the country and am on antibiotics), I was directed to a waiting area. My trepidation mounted as I saw a girl faint when they started the procedure. When she lost consciousness, the nurses immediately started to flit around her with concern, though she woke up soon after. Apparently needles aren't for everyone, so keep that in mind before you decide to give.
When a chair was open (they'd set up folding lawn chairs for the donors), I sat down. After rubbing my arm with iodine to sterilize it, they found and marked a vein on the inside of my elbow while I squeezed an apple-shaped stress ball to make it more visible. They pumped up a blood-pressure reader near my shoulder to serve as a tourniquet.
Then, they brought out the needle.
I was expecting it to be big, but I still did a bit of a double-take when I saw the thing. You're going to stick THAT into THERE? Fainting didn't seem like a bad option at this point. Nevertheless, machismo dictated that I would keep a carefree smile plastered on my face at all times, so I cheerfully gave the nurse the go-ahead and focused on not wincing too much.
As it turns out, my fear was largely unfounded; there wasn't nearly as much pain as I had expected. The small needle they used to test my iron levels almost hurt more. I was a bit worried, though, when the tube didn't start filling immediately -- while the discomfort wasn't huge, I wasn't ready for another round of the psychological buildup. Fortunately, after they probed a bit, the dark liquid started shooting through with prodigious speed.
I kept squeezing my little stress ball, and eventually I'd filled their little bag. They clamped my tube, filled a couple containers for testing, and finally took out the needle. I kept pressure on the hole, but when I finally lifted the gauze, I saw that the hole had already partially filled and was rather small by then. I was given a bandage and told to take it easy for the next day. I'd replenish the fluid in 24 hours; no heavy lifting till then. I felt a little bit drained, but I was good to go after a good meal and a quick nap.
So really, the inconvenience of blood donation was pretty minimal. I'll probably give in the future, though I don't know if it's feasible every 56 days (the maximum frequency with which one can donate). I hope I've convinced you -- try it at least once. If you're not a needle person, you don't have to do it again, but at least give it a shot (pun very intended).