What happens when you Give Blood in the UK

** There are photos of blood and needles in this post so if you're not into that then please don't read any further **

The main reason why I'm posting about this isn't because I want you all to tell me how wonderful I am for donating, it's actually because I want you all to know how easy and painless giving blood is. Before I donated I was so nervous because I was unsure of what was going to happen - I couldn't find any real life experiences online so I thought I'd add mine in the hope that it would encourage someone to register and give blood.
I always said I would give blood ever since my auntie had some blood transfusions which I believed prolonged her life for a couple more weeks when she was really poorly before passing away. It's taken me 6 years to actually pluck up the courage to do it and now I wish I'd done it much sooner!!
Basically, the first step is to register online and find out your nearest donation location. They will ask you a series of personal questions to make sure you are eligible to donate; you need to be in good health, you must not have had any piercings or tattoos in the last 12 months and there are also some pretty intimate questions which they ask about your sexual history (just to establish whether you have been at severe risk of contracting HIV or other sexually transmitted diseases). If you are eligible to donate then you will be able to make an appointment at your nearest location, it is possible to walk in to some places but it can mean waiting longer and you are not guaranteed to be able to donate. 

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...


You have to sit down for 10 minutes or so and have a cold drink of water or squash and a biscuit or a bag of crisps, you can also have a hot drink afterwards if you like. I felt absolutely fine after donating but the nurses really do look after you well both during and after donating, my nurse asked me several times during donation if I was feeling ok and if you don't feel too good then they can stop the donation at any time.
Overall the whole experience was so rewarding and not scary in the slightest. I think it's the fear of the unknown that puts lots of people off; I'm a proper puff when it comes to pain and I will definitely be making an appointment for October. If you've been thinking about doing it and you are eligible please take this opportunity to register and do something truly amazing which will save lives!

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