Content notice- this article includes discussion of blood and needles

We’ve been talking a lot about blood over at The Nopebook recently. Not in a creepy way, but about blood donation. I’ve been donating blood for a few years now, and it’s one of the best things I do. So I was completely astounded to see the statistic that only 3% of eligible people give blood. Three percent. That’s ridiculous.

What puts people off giving blood? Maybe you can’t give blood because of a health condition, or because of your sexual orientation. There are numerous things that can mean you can’t donate, you can find a comprehensive list here.

But maybe you are eligible and you’ve just never thought about it before. Maybe it’s a fear of needles, or of feeling unwell. Maybe the sight of blood makes you queasy. Maybe you can’t be bothered. Here’s the thing, though: one blood donation can save three lives. For an hour or so of your time, you can make a real difference. And it’s never been easier to sign up and to donate.

I was terrified the first time I gave blood. Absolutely terrified. The idea of having a needle put into my arm and losing quite a lot of blood was enough to make my head spin. I shouldn’t have worried though, because my experience, like so many other people’s, was nothing but positive (A+, if we’re talking blood groups). So I’ve been back again and again. I won’t tell you it’s fun – you are giving your blood away, after all – but it’s categorically a good thing to do. Frankly, I think giving blood is the closest thing you can have to getting superpowers.

In my opinion it’s not a scary process either. Here’s what happens when you go to give blood:

  • On arrival, you sign in with a Donor Carer, and read the provided literature. This will tell you more about the process, and give some information about who can and can’t give blood.
  • You’ll then be called to see a nurse, who will do a prick test on one finger, and test your iron levels. They’ll also run through some general health questions with you – often these will be about travel in recent months, especially if a disease like Zika is prevalent. If your iron levels are ok, then you’re all set to donate!
  • Once you’ve done this, you’ll be asked to wait and drink a big glass of water (or squash). Staying hydrated is key!
  • Once you’re sat in the chair – they’re always really comfy – a nurse will find your vein, use a swab to clean the area, and insert the needle to begin your donation. It doesn’t hurt (I promise) except for the small scratch. It really is easy. To make your donation quick and easy, it’s important to clench and unclench your fist – you should also clench and unclench your bum and leg muscles, which does make you look a bit ridiculous, but it really works! It takes between five and ten minutes.
  • Once you’re done, the machine will beep and a nurse or Donor Carer will come and remove the needle. You’ll have a plaster over the site – this stays on for 24 hours, and for me taking it off is the most painful part of the whole donation!
  • After a little while, you can move across to the best part of the process – the snacks! I favour a big glass of squash and a Mint Club personally.

Not so scary, right? If you’re worried like I was, you can even take a friend with you to keep you company. Everyone is very nice, and as long as you follow the advice before the donation (drink lots of water, eat good meals on the day), you should have a good experience. You even get a text to tell you where your donation has gone, which is one of my favourite things (along with the Mint Club, which is 100% the best biscuit choice)

It sounds incredibly trite to say it, but you might be able to save someone’s life by giving up an hour of your day and that’s an incredible thing. Stocks are low right now – hot weather takes a toll on attendance numbers for donation sessions – and they’re desperately looking for donors.

If you’ve ever thought about it, or even if you haven’t, now is the time to sign up. Go to the NHS Blood Donation website and register – it takes seconds and it makes a real difference.

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