Thursday, April 21, 2011

donating blood - 101

Ok class, listen up. I know most of you are not ready to take the leap and donate your kidney, so I thought we might take a little baby step together and allow me to show you (got lots of pics) just how easy it is to donate your blood. I've been a committed blood donor now for about 4 years and it's easy-peezy. I too am terrified of needles, so I'm not going to listen to the excuses from everyone about how scared they are of the long prong (ooh, does that sound right?) Yes, it's creepy and pointy and sharp and cold, but so was my 10th grade Spanish teacher and I recovered from that trauma. 

Go to the American Red Cross website and locate your local blood donation center and schedule an appointment. All you need is one hour of time to draw the blood and all the other clinical mandatory crap they ask you to complete. They will ask you to confirm your name about 10 times and honestly, if you can tolerate that, you can tolerate the needle.

So, let's get started, shall we?

First step is getting through this manual. 

They will ask you to take one of these books and read through it. 
It's riveting.

It's filled with bunch of legal-schmeegal stuff.

They will call your name and escort you into a very small room filled with snakes. Kidding. The room is really tiny though and it makes me nervous. Don't know why, just does. Anyhow, they begin the 'name game' at this point and within 2 minutes, they've already asked you your name 3 times. Before they can move on to the next step, they have to prick your finger and take a small blood sample to see if your iron count is high enough for them to let you donate. Tonight was my third visit within the last 3 weeks to donate because the last two times I attempted, my iron was too low. Apparently runners are often rejected (story of my life) because the running bounces around your blood cells and affects your iron count. Sounds like a bunch of hooey to me. I ate about 10 lbs. of spinach this past week and evidently the stuff really does boost your iron count. I was good to go!

Finger is pricked with a very small needle and your iron is tested.

If you pass the iron test, they give you a badge. No they don't but I think after what I have been through these past few weeks, I deserve one. They set you up in front of laptop, they exit out the Alice in Wonderland door from the tiny room, and you have to complete the questionnaire provided. They ask you all these crazy questions about illnesses, surgeries, diseases, prison sex, body piercings, etc. This takes only about 4 minutes or so, unless you need more time to think about the prison sex one. 

Let's all be honest now...

Now you're ready for the big-people room and you park your rump in this nice pleather La-Z-Boy and the foot massage begins. 

I have one just like this at home.

The phlebotomist then gathers her tools and preps for the blood draw. She then asks you your name, again. And again, and again.

Tubes and bags and electronic devices and paperwork...
I really don't know what all this stuff is but it looks important, doesn't it?

They wrap a giant rubberband around your arm and give you a squish ball to squeeze. Your veins pop out like worms and she marks the juiciest one she can find.

Vein is marked, and do I have nice ones! Or so I'm told.

After it's marked, they rub this really dark tanning lotion all over it. Guess it not only sanitizes the area, but gives you that savage tan you want.

She cleans your needle-poking spot, for what seems to be forever.

GRAPHIC PHOTO WARNING:  She inserts the needle, I let out this chirpy, squeelie sound like a little baby and within 30 seconds, the creepiness is over.

I look like I have Popeye arms here. Must have been all that spinach.

At the end of the draw, vials are collected in addition to the pints, for testing.

The needle is removed and they bandage you up. All done!

I have oompa loompa arm now.

Blood all packed up neatly and ready to be sent off to my favorite vampire, Count Chocula.

Happy blood.

Total blood draw time was 13 minutes. This figure will vary, depending on how quickly or slowly, your blood flows. This is why they give you a squish ball to squeeze on and off while your'e donating, it gets the blood flowing faster.

The bonus to every blood donation is of course the buffet that is served immediately after. Looks nutritional too, eh?


Now see, that wasn't so bad now was it? My total time invested was 45 minutes from the time I walked in the door until I exited the building. I remember I was terrified my first time, the needle is so intimidating but honestly, you don't really feel it after the first 30 seconds. It's all well worth it and I would encourage all of my readers to please consider taking an hour of your day to save a life.

A few facts from the American Red Cross about why your donation is so important...
  • Nearly every 2 seconds of every day, someone needs blood.
  • If everyone donated blood just one more time each year, there would be no shortages.
  • Your one donation can help save the lives of as many as three hospital patients.
  • Only 5% of people who are eligible actually donate blood.
Until next time... if you schedule an appointment during the month of April (and we only have several days left), they give you a nice, red t-shirt!