Visit to the vampire

Yesterday’s plan was to take my films in to be developed on a 1 hour service and while I waiting, to be good and pop into the Blood Donor Centre. Unfortunately, there had been a problem with the film processing machine and so 1 hour was not available. I’ll collect my photos on Saturday.

Anyway, I did walk down to the Blood Donor Centre and volunteer an ‘armfull’. The post I did a couple of weeks ago about BlogCatalog’s Organ Donation Awareness Campaign reminded me that I had been meaning to get back. I used to donate regularly several years ago and it was only when I checked my donor card that I realised it had been over 12 years since I last donated. Because so many things have changed over the years, they had to sign me on as a new donor, but my previous 18 donations were noted.

The first difference that I noticed was the welcome folder with information about donating blood and the donor health check form that has to be completed each time you donate. I’m fairly sure when I used to donate, you were asked questions, but didn’t have to fill in and sign a form.

Then, in one of the screened areas, one of the team members went through my answers on the health check form to confirm that I had answered them correctly and asked me a couple of other standard questions. Then I had to agree to my blood being tested for HIV and other infections and sign the consent form for the donation.

Back onto familiar territory next, the haemoglobin level check. My finger was cleaned with a sterile wipe and then pricked with a lancet to get a drop of blood. I remember on cold winter mornings, the trouble they would have persuading the blood drop to appear after pricking the finger. As that was fine, on to the donation bed.

Another change, the beds are new ones that are shorter. I’m 6’1″ and my feet were just hanging off the end, still I’m not here for a sleep, so no worries. My details were checked again to confirm who I was and then a cuff was used to make it easy to find a vein. Most of my previous donations were from my left arm, except for a couple when the vein would not be found; there was no trouble this time with the left. They use a sterile wipe on a stick to clean the arm, a much bigger area than they used to do with the wipes previously. Then she inserted the needle, I barely felt it. I didn’t watch it though; I did that once and it seemed a hundred times worse.

They used to have wooden rollers that you kept moving in your hand while you donated, but these have been done away with for hygiene reasons, you just have to keep moving your hand without anything to remind you. The first blood goes into a small bag which will be used for doing the sample testing. The sample blood used to be taken at the end after you had given the donation, but this would mean that if someone felt unwell while donating, there wouldn’t be a sample to test and so the donation would be unusable as it couldn’t be tested. After the sample was taken, a valve was moved and the remainder went into the main bag. The bag is on a machine with lights to show what percentage is completed and lights to remind you to grasp your hand or move your fingers. Unlike Monty Python, they didn’t have the ‘machine that goes ping’, but maybe that’s only in hospitals. I was surprised how quick the actual donation took, 6 minutes and 18 seconds to be precise. The needle was removed and sealed in a cover that was attached to the bag. Looking back at when I used to donate, I realise that it is much more sterile and controlled now.

Then, as a ‘new’ donor, I had to rest on the bed for 10 minutes before I went to the refreshment area for another drink.

In all I was probably there for about 45 minutes.

National Blood Service - Do Something Amazing - Give Blood

National Blood Service - Do Something Amazing - Give Blood

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