I first tried to donate blood many years ago, while in university. I succumbed to peer pressure and joined my friends on a campus blood drive. On checkin, I was asked how I was feeling.
Fine, I said, except for this stupid cold.
Dismissed! You can’t donate blood when you have a cold.
The second time, I was still in university, and this time not ill. I had, however, been particularly successful in battling my freshmen 15. In fact, I was so successful, I kept on dieting and exercising until I lost another 15, then another, then…
“How much do weigh?” I was asked on checkin.
“99 pounds!” I said proudly.
Dismissed! Too skinny to donate, apparently.
I’ve since, of course, long ago attained and stuck at at a much more sensible (higher) weight, but I made no further attempts to donate. I blamed blood tests, as I never found those much fun. They always seem to have trouble finding a vein; sometimes they’ve even had to make two attempts before succeeding. The needle feels uncomfortable in the vein the whole time it’s there [with pardon to needle-averse readers; but then, they would skip this one anyway, right?].
But I did volunteer for the Ontario Health Study, and as part of that, they asked me to give a blood sample. A few blood samples, really. And those tests were a breeze! Likely I just had a particularly talented nurse, but it did get me thinking maybe I should, finally, try that whole blood donation thing again.
It’s a bit a time-consuming process, though would have been faster if I’d known what I was doing. As I had made an appointment and it was a medical-ly kind of setting, I sat around waiting to be hailed by name until I realized it was more of a lineup situation, except with chairs. So a couple people arriving after me got in ahead. Then as a first-time donor, I had a bit more of a registration process to get in the system.
The first part of the fun is the finger-prick test to check my hemoglobin levels. Those turned out to be fine. Not dismissed!
I then had to fill in half of a questionnaire, largely focused on my general health, travel destinations, and current medications. Then do some more waiting to see another person, in a private room, to go over those questions and fill out the rest of the questionnaire—the more “delicate” questions about the sex life and the intravenous drug habits. She also took my blood pressure. Which turned out to be fine.
On the sex and drugs stuff, I noticed she was pretty much filling in the No boxes before I actually managed to get the denials out. What took longest was determining if the previous day’s migraine pill was an issue (it was not) and making a special note of the aspirin I had taken that day (not a disqualifier, but does require different blood treatment).
And, I got orange juice.
As a final step, you’re left alone in the room with a barcoded Yes or No sticker to affix to the form. This is to cover those cases where you don’t want to admit verbally that you shouldn’t be donating blood, but for some damn reason still want to go through with the procedure.
[One thing they never asked? How much I weighed. Is that no longer a thing, or is it just that I’m obviously no longer under 100 pounds?]
Then you actually lie back and donate blood. I think at least 45 minutes had already passed by then. Maybe more.
They did have a bit of trouble finding a vein (though did get it on the first attempt). And, the needle didn’t feel great in there. And it’s a bit ookey to see blood coming out of your arm into a tube.
But it wasn’t that bad. Jean, who’d kindly offered to drive me there, joined me at this point, as he had more than exhausted the possibilities of the small mall the clinic was in, by this point. The actual donating didn’t take that long. Afterward, you sit there about five minutes, then you get bandaged, then you go sit at another table for another 10 minutes or so and enjoy cookies and more orange juice. And that’s it.
The arm was a bit sore that night, but it didn’t last too long. I didn’t notice any particular lightheadedness or fatigue afterward.
Would I do it again? Well, I have 56 days to think about that…