National Blood Week

Last week was National Blood Week and I thought I’d utilise this (belated due to my exams) chance to help the National Blood Service raise awareness of the desperate need for blood donations.

I first registered as a blood donor a few years ago, and following a sabbatical due to knee surgery am now back to donating regularly and have just given my sixth donation. 

 Blood is needed every 3 seconds to save or prolong life

I first decided I would become a blood donor when I was 17.  I vividly remember my provisional driving license arriving, and on the reverse was a box to sign to become an organ donor.  I felt extremely squeamish about the idea of donating organs after death, and so decided that as a compromise, I would donate blood whilst alive instead. 

Having been a blood donor for a while, and having found the whole process so straightforward, I find I’m no longer squeamish about such things.  I remember seeing the television adverts to raise awareness for organ donation and thinking – if I needed an organ transplant, would I accept it?  Of course I would.  So I am now on both the organ donor register, and the bone marrow register. 

During National Blood week, I discovered a statistic that truly shocked me:

 Only 4% of those eligible to give blood are blood donors

 That means a horrifying 96% of us are relying on a miniscule 4% to potentially save their lives. 

 What’s involved?

I think many people are not blood donors due to squeamishness or nerves about the procedure.  The reality is it’s very simple, and though this might surprise you, quite relaxing.

First you are given a short donor questionnaire to ensure that it is safe for you to give blood, and that your blood could not potentially harm the recipient.  Questions deal with recent travel, general health, medication etc. 

Next there is a finger prick test, where your finger is pricked with a pin (I always find this completely painless), and a drop of blood drawn and tested to make sure you’re not anaemic. 

Next a comfy recliner chair with an arm rest, a tourniquet is briefly applied to aid finding a vein, and the needle is inserted.  I generally feel a brief prick, but the lovely nurses are always ridiculously over-concerned to make sure minimal discomfort occurs.  Then sit and relax whilst beverages and biccies are served and the donation is taken.  Afterwards a plaster and you’re advised to do nothing strenuous for a few hours.  Job done!

 Who can give blood?

If you are between 17 and 65 years of age, weigh over 7stone 12lbs and are generally in good health, you may well be eligible to give blood.  You can check the National Blood Service website if you’re unsure.  It’s safe to give blood every 12-16 weeks.  

What’s the downside?

Frankly, there isn’t one.  Giving blood takes about an hour out of my day, once every 3-4 months.  I take my Kindle and have some relaxing “me-time”.  I’m one of those people who bruise at the touch of a feather, so generally I have a tiny bruise for a few days afterwards. 

What are four hours a year and a slight bruise when it comes to potentially saving a life?  If it were you, or one of your loved ones lying in hospital, you’d want to know the blood reserves were there wouldn’t you?  So go on, visit now, and register your interest. 


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