After registering online you will be sent some forms in the post which you must complete and take with you when you attend your donation session. Try and make sure you eat a substantial meal before you donate; they're all about reducing the risk of you feeling faint and this is one of the ways you can ensure you feel absolutely fine. Upon arrival at your session, you will be asked to sit down and drink a large glass of water or squash (this is said to reduce the likelihood of feeling faint afterwards) and you are asked to read the booklets you are given while you wait.
You will then be called through to be asked more questions about your general health and the answers you put on your questionnaire which you were sent in the post. If all is well on that front then they prick your middle finger (which is literally just like a sharp pin prick) then squeeze some blood out of it to drop into a solution to test your iron levels. If the drop of blood sinks then you're good to go but if it doesn't sink you will have to have a further test to make sure your iron levels are high enough to donate.
My levels were absolutely fine and I was sent to another waiting area. After a couple of minutes I was called to the donating area, at this point you can have someone to sit with you if you want. They ask which arm you would prefer to have blood taken from; mine is always my right arm because I think the vein is better. Then you sit on a weird little recliner chair thing and a nurse comes to get you all set up, here's what happens:
- They put a cuff on the top of your arm and make it tight to restrict the blood flow to make your vein more visible, you may also be asked to squeeze your hand a few times.
- Once they've found the vein they will clean your arm thoroughly with an anti-septic wipe
- Then the nurse will inform you that the needle is going in; it is bigger than a blood test needle but honestly it is exactly like having a blood test; just a sharp scratch then once it's in it's completely painless.
- You lay like that for around 10-15 mins - however long it takes for the blood to be taken. In the meantime you might need to squeeze your hand just to help the flow of blood. They take just under a pint of blood which is monitored on the machine, it automatically stops when you get to the amount.
- Once the donation is complete the machine will beep, the nurse will come and take the needle out of your arm. Again, just a small scratch, I had my eyes tight shut and didn't even realise it was out until she said 'can you just apply some pressure on there' and showed me a bit of gauze on my arm.
- They will sit you up in the chair and ask you if you feel ok, then you can move on to arguably the best part of the experience...