Brian's Blog

…one man's contribution to the Weeeeerly Wild World

Blood Donation #3

I have now donated blood for the third time, and it seems I have perfected the art. The first two times I felt faint at various stages; the first time part the way through donating – the world started to turn white and I apparently turned very pale, and the second time I had completed my donation, sat on the bed for a while, and then made it over to the refreshments table, poured myself a drink and opened a packet of biscuits, took a bite… and then started to feel faint! The nurse notice and I went to go and lie back down.

When on the third occasion I had made it through these two stages successfully I braced myself for a moment of faintness to descend upon me during my cycle home, but it didn’t happen – I was expecting it to and thus kept my senses very alert. For a couple of days after each donation I wouldn’t have my usual energy levels, and this was most noticeable when cycling, but not particularly severe.

Most people donate blood without a problem and I suspect that on my first visit I was somewhat apprehensive deep down, although not on the surface. Since I felt faint on the second occasion after going to sit down I suspect it was more physiological, rather than psychological, and I think being quite slim and having a sensitive composition play a part.

I hereby provide my steps and tips for successfully donating blood:

  1. Drink plenty the day before and throughout the day leading up to the donation.
  2. Eat well and eat a salty snack just before donating.
  3. The general advice is to avoid physical activity before and after donating, but I’m used to cycling and cycling there and back was fine for me – I would encourage everyone to travel to their donation centre under their own steam (if you’re not used to travelling under your own steam then get used to this first); the whole point of donating is to save lives but it every donor drives then they are all contributing to pollution, and I believe, global warming – this will harm the health of us all.
  4. Be calm and chilled out. Plan to arrive in good time. There is a nice friendly atmosphere at the donation centre I attend and faces become familiar too. Allow plenty of time for the donation and some recovery time after – some centres can be busy; my last donation saw a wait of 30 minutes beforehand, so I ended up being there for an hour.
  5. Wear a shirt or top that, if it has long sleeves, can be rolled up to give good access to your arm.
  6. During the donation focus on your breathing and exercises. We’re instructed to clench our butt for five seconds and relax for ten, and cross and uncross our legs. During my last donation I was able to see a clock from my bed and I used this to keep my focus on my breathing, taking deep slow breathes, and doing the exercise in a timely manner, not only does this keep you distracted from what else is going on, but it keeps your blood circulating well; the donation passed very swiftly.
  7. Take your time sitting up. Sit on the edge of the bed after donating and give yourself plenty of time; still taking long, slow, deep breaths. Only move when instructed to AND when you feel ready – there is no rush.
  8. The breathing exercises are akin to meditation and practising this at other times could help too, not just when donating blood, although it will better prepare you for this because it will mean this type of breathing doesn’t feel awkward to you when you are donating – I have found that such breathing can make me feel dizzy, so it’s good to work passed this.
  9. Drink and consume plenty of the refreshments on offer; this is the fun part! However, be prepared to go and lie back down if you need to – the nurses kept a good eye on me and had it in their notes that I was prone to feeling faint! One can’t be too embarrassed about this!
  10. Allow yourself to have plenty of sleep and a relaxing day following your donation; eat well too. I noticed my energy levels feeling lower than normal when cycling a day or so after, but they gradually recovered.

As a final point, which reflects my views and habits regarding plastic waste and recycling, I have raised a point with the blood donation service regarding their use of plastic cups and the means of disposal thereafter; they provide one black bag for all the rubbish: plastic cups, and plastic bags and packets from the crisps (potato chips) and biscuits available – plastic cups can be recycled and should not go into general waste; similar to my point (3) above about not driving to the centre because this is anathema to the point of donating blood to save lives, sending recyclable plastic to landfill is harmful to our planet and the lives of others. I’m considering making a stand and taking my own refreshments in a bottle (a pint is provided/needed before donating), or taking my plastic rubbish away with me to be disposed of correctly, but ideally the correct facilities should be provided on site (and the use of encouraged). There is a lot of plastic waste produced by the medical industry with so many things being wrapped in plastic; it is a wide-ranging issue that needs addressing, but we must begin where we can.

Further reading…

Donation #2 – https://bmhonline.wordpress.com/2015/10/27/blood-donation-2

Donation #1 – https://bmhonline.wordpress.com/2015/07/03/blood-donation-pay-it-forward

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5 comments on “Blood Donation #3

  1. bribikes
    20 February, 2016

    Nicely done, Brian! I want to donate again but there I have a small fear that it will mess up my iron levels which is a frequent problem for females…both my sister and mom have low iron counts which is not reassuring. But if I make a point of eating lots of iron rich foods I should be okay, I guess at the end of the day it is just an excuse!

    • Brian
      20 February, 2016

      I notice with my cycling that after donating blood it takes me a few days until I’m back on form – I would guess that this is a good indication of iron levels recovering. As a healthy and very active person I’m sure you would similarly recover in good time, and of course they check your iron levels before donating to make sure your levels are good beforehand. I was concerned that I was simply too slim and handing over a pint of my blood was too much of a hit for me, and that’s why I was feeling faint, but I seem to have overcome that – I’m hoping it should all be routine from here-on-in… I’m thinking it could become routine for you too 😉

      • bribikes
        20 February, 2016

        Thanks for your reassuring words, Brian, they were exactly what I needed to hear 🙂 I will make it a priority to donate by the end of March.

        Strangely enough, my coworker and I talked about blood donation at work today. Brian, she asked me how people can donate blood multiple times.

        “Don’t they run out of blood? Isn’t this all the blood we have?”

        I made a heroic struggle not to laugh as I explained bone marrow and how our bodies are constantly creating new red blood cells to replace old, dying cells.

        “Oh, is that why we have periods, to get rid of the old blood?”

        I gulped and by the time I had recovered my composure enough to answer her, she had already realized her mistake, thankfully.

        “Oh duh, that wouldn’t work for guys, would it?”

        She is a sweet girl and still in high school but still- I wanted to laugh sooo badly!

        Anyway, that is my weird story for the day…

  2. Oni
    22 February, 2016

    Great to see that you have already donated blood for the third time. Great post too. Coincidentally, I have written a similar article recently titled “Spare only 15 minutes and save one life” at https://wp.me/p7gcQe-U .

    • Brian
      22 February, 2016

      Thanks Oni – a great message also.

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