…one man's contribution to the Weeeeerly Wild World
In my previous post I mentioned that I had done an hour’s cycling before cycling to my brother’s house so that he would cycle with me to mine, rather than him driving. He’s not used to cycling and I made him appreciate he had it easier because I had already cycled to the shops, I was carrying groceries on my bike, and that I would be cycling off later to donate blood.
This would be the second time I had donated blood, and I wrote about my first time donating blood three months ago – it went pretty well… up until the world turned pretty white!
Some things we’re advised about prior to giving blood are to be well hydrated (drink plenty of water throughout the day before and after donating), avoid vigorous exercise just before or immediately giving blood, and eat well/as normal before and after. I had these things in mind that morning, even if I would still be cycling there*… but my plans changed when my brother decided he was bored. By the time we got to my house there was little time for anything more than a cup of tea and a scone, I’d had my usual bowl of porridge for breakfast but really I should have had lunch already too. And because my brother talks a lot, when I did finally set off on my bike again to go and give blood, I was running a little late – do I then cycle there sedately and arrive on time, or get my head down for the five mile journey and arrive on time?!
*I can’t justify driving to give blood, I cycle pretty much everywhere and the distance for me is a no-brainer. Driving a car pollutes the atmosphere and therefore damages health, the purpose of donating blood is to save someone’s life, so these two things do not logically fit together in my mind.
Thankfully I had a helpful wind on my back on my journey there, and I kept guzzling water on the way, but turning onto the last road I met with a digger going the same way – and, well, it was going a little slow, so I overtook it, vigorously. My bad!
I calmly boarded the donation bus (seriously, I had already calmed myself down again) and I sat down. I was ask if I wanted water, lemon or orange to drink and I opted for orange (lemon drinks can make me wheezy and I’d been drinking water throughout the day already, as my bladder was starting to remind me). A very pale-looking liquid in a plastic cup (type 2 – I really need to enquire as to whether they recycle these) of liquid was handed to me, and I discovered it was indeed water and not orange – “The nurses have perhaps had a busy day, easy mistake, I just hope a similar one isn’t made when taking liquids out of me, no worries.” I quietly guzzled down the drink without pointing out the mistake.
I was taken into the very small room where we’re asked a series of questions and confirming the details we’d filled in on the form are correct. The nurse casually asked if I’d eaten and I’m pretty sure the flicker in her eye when I said “yes”, meant she was immediately sceptical regarding my reply and I didn’t need to say, “But only porridge and a scone.” (That’s enough fuel for cycling 25 miles, right?) But being skinny often seems to cause people to look at me in a, “Have you eaten this week?” manner.
Anywho, I had my finger pricked and shortly thereafter I was instructed to lie on the bed, with my head propped up by a foam-filled slope. I had my arm cleaned with alcohol and then the needle was inserted. All well and good. Now the fun would surely begin!
During my first blood donation I had felt the stinging on my arm from the alcohol on the skin where the needle penetrated, which the nurse warned me about, but it quickly passed, but on this occasion I hardly noticed any stinging and she said nothing. As the minutes rolled on during my first donation I still felt very comfortable with the procedure and I glanced out of the window and around the room at others. I started to think about a silly-world ending scenario where I would be left in this place and have all my blood drained out of me with no one there to remove the needle… and gradually I started to feel faint! I tried to let the feeling pass and said nothing – I thought some conscious breaths would help, but the room continued to turn white and sweat began to form on my face. I was very conscious of all of this, so surely I wasn’t actually about to pass out. I had never passed out in my life and I was sure this feeling would pass on its own accord, just as it does when you stand up too quick or blow up too many party balloons. The nurses saw me and asked me if I was okay, and I actually said, “Yes, maybe just a little light-headed.” I didn’t want to make a fuss and I still thought I would be fine in a minute, but they knew otherwise and began busying round me, laying me down and ending the donatio.
On this occasion I avoided thinking about silly world-ending scenarios and concentrated on my breathing and the fist-clenching exercise. I thought I had let myself become too relaxed the first time and those silly thoughts hadn’t helped. I could feel the warm tube laying on my arm, through which I knew my own blood was draining into the bag – but it was fine, for some reason feeling how warm my blood was (even though my body was full of the stuff) made me smile. The nurse left me alone for a little while, while she tended to others, but she returned and asked if I was okay. I said yes, and really I was – I wasn’t fibbing this time while a pale face and beads of sweat gave my game away, but she stayed and chatted with me, asking about what work I do and computer stuff related to that. I realised that she either really had nothing else to do or she knew I was a donor that needed such a distraction. She asked again if I was feeling okay and sure enough I was, and I acknowledged that she was doing well to keep me distracted! She revealed that down on my notes was, in a coded shorthand (because there’s not enough room to write all things in detail), a note pertaining to fainting! I remembered a guy the time before who was on the bed in front of me who seemed to be receiving a lot more attention than others, repeatedly being asked if he was okay, and having a good chat with the nurse. This time that was me, and I realised why. The nurse also confirmed, from the coded notes that I had indeed donated my full quota last time – I had been unsure about this.
The nurse told me when I was reaching half-way, and then three-quarters, and then almost to the end of my donation, and I was still fine – the room was still in full technicolor. One thing I hadn’t been so conscious of during my first donation was the point at which the needle was actually removed from my arm – I guess because I was distracted by the nurses round me and having fans switched on and windows opened to give me fresh air. On this occasion I was more aware of the feeling of the needle being taken out, but it was no worse than it going in really – just another part of the procedure.
I lay still for a while, holding the gauze on my arm as instructed and I felt ready to sit up already, but there were some minutes before I was told to do so. When I finally sat up I was still feeling good and eventually I was told I could move over to the seating area (literally just one small step away) where I poured myself a cup of orange (orange-coloured this time) and I opened a packed of biscuits. I took some sips of the drink and began to eat the first of three custard creams… and then my face started to feel warm. Dammit! I needed to lie down again! Wtf!? The nurse looked at me and asked within that same moment if I was okay, and I did the brave, honest thing and said no: “I’m feeling pale and think I need to lie down again.” I stood and stepped over to the bed and lay back down, placing the 2 1/2 custard creams at my side, but these were confiscated and moved over to the table with my drink. Custard creams are perhaps my favourite biscuits, and like a child I missed them!
After a minute or so I felt fine again and pined for my custard creams which I could see over on the table, and eventually I was allowed back to them. I finished them, some more orange, and a packet of crisps and then I was ready to go, and my body agreed. I cycled home. The nurses weren’t so bothered by this this time – last time I had received strong advice against cycling, but it really wasn’t a problem – it’s what I’m used to.
The last time I gave blood I was pretty tired in the evening and I felt like my cycling ability wasn’t at 100% the next day, but this time I’m feeling fine – although I haven’t been out on my bike yet. I ate well, making up for only having porridge and a scone! I’ll try and do better next time.
I’m still unsure why I felt faint – I’m glad I made it through the actual procedure without the world turning white (the nurse distracting me with conversation certainly helped), by why I felt faint after moving to a chair when I had felt good up until that point I don’t know – maybe my subconscious once again became conscious of what had been inflicted on my body, or it’s a physical thing where having 470ml taken out of me affects me more because I’m slim – the blood pressure perhaps needs to equalise once again throughout. The nurse actually said to me that perhaps if feeling faint keeps happening to me when I donate blood, then perhaps donating blood isn’t for me, as if I’m not really happy with it. But outwardly I feel fine about it, and even having this issue feels like something I want to overcome. I will look forward to Blood Donation #3.