I have just recently become old enough to donate blood, and I would really really like to do it. I've been giving it a lot of thought, and while I would very much like to do it, I'm a little freaked out. Before I do it, I'm looking for some help so that I can understand what to anticipate better and (hopefully) get some advice on how to make it less scary. So if anyone who has done it before doesn't mind sharing their experiences, that would be great.
1) I'm pretty squeamish and certainly not good with handling blood and guts. I'm not afraid of needles, but blood tests have always freaked me out (when they draw blood from you to take it to a lab to test it). I've heard that you sit there with the bag of blood next to you while it comes out of you & that it's a big needle in you, which is hard for some people to deal with. Is this true? Is it really as bad as it sounds, or is it one of those things that sounds far more nauseating than it really is? If it's freaky, any tips on how to make it better?
2) What is the actual procedure and process? Could someone describe what happens and what you do/what it's like? I think that knowing exactly what happens from someone who's done would help make me less nervous.
3) What happens afterwards? If I understand correctly, they take enough blood that you often feel a bit lightheaded or woozy afterwards. To plan for afterwards, should I plan on having my mom or dad take me and pick me up (so that I don't drive afterwards)? Should I plan on the rest of the day being quiet so that I can regain strength, or is it really not that bad?
4) A dumb question, but how do I find out WHERE I can donate? I know that there are often vans that travel around and do it, but I don't know how to locate those. Would my local hospital do it? Are traveling Red Cross vans generally sterile and all that?
I really, really want to do this, so if anyone has any tips for the squeamish or nervous on how to make it easier/less "gross", please share. I'll do it anyway, but I'd like it to be as painless as possible .
Thanks in advance for helping a nervous teenager!
Google American Red Cross and you can find blood drive locations near you and the 800 number to call to schedule a time. Or most places also take walk-ins without an appointment.
When you go, they give you a booklet to read, then have you answer a bunch of questions to determine whether you are eligible to give blood, health-wise. Recent tattoos, etc.
Next they take a drop of blood from your finger and test it to make sure you're not anemic that day.
If you pass all those tests, they put you on a table or recliner and insert a needle in your arm to draw the blood, which might take 20-30 minutes.
Afterwards they usually give you some juice and cookies, and encourage you to sit there until you're sure you feel fine. I've always driven home from donating blood, but you could arrange a ride the first time if you're concerned about it.
I try to donate a couple of times a year. They say that every pint of blood you donate can save three lives, so if you do it twice a year for ten years, you might be saving 60 lives. An entire busload of people! That's pretty cool.
I love to donate blood but I am anemic and it takes a YEAR for me to build up the iron to donate just once. Than I am wiped out for weeks afterward. SO I don't do it anymore. It never really bothered me
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Here, the grade school has a drive or two a year.
The local blood bank sends some nurses, they ask you a few questions and have you sign them, then here you wait while you get to talk to your neighbors there, then it is your turn and you sit on a recliner, they find a blood vessel, get their blood and you are good to go.
They also have a table with fruit drinks or sodas and cookies, for those that like a bite after giving blood.
They always call me to come because my blood has some factors that are rare and very valuable and those are always needed.
A little tip when the blood is being drawn - just don't look. Close your eyes and relax, or take magazine to flip through. It doesn't take long. Oh, and make sure you eat within a few hours beforehand.
Ahh I've been around the block with this one a couple of times .
1. I'm not squeemish at all, so I'm not sure I'm the best authority on this part, but the bag isn't right right next you, it's kind of hanging down, so you don't have to look at it. The needle doesn't hurt to bad, and you can look away while they do it, and then they can cover it up if you don't want to see it. The weirdest part is watching the blood come out of your arm. If you think that might freak you out, you can bring along music (or a friend) to keep you entertained.
2. Step by step process... hmmm its been a while, so I'll be winging this a little. You go and register, you have to answer all these questions (have you been out of the country recently, etc) so make sure that there isn't anything you've done that might compromise your blood. They will weigh you if they think you don't meet the weight requirement and I'm pretty sure they test your blood at the very beginning to see if you're low on iron or anything. Then you sit down in a lawn chair, they stick you, you hang out for a little while and squeeze a ball, they check on you every so often, when you're done they unstick you, take they bag, put a little bandage on your arm, and you go enjoy snackies and beverages.
3. I would recommend taking someone the first time because it seems like everyone reacts differently. You also might be woozy the first time because it's a different experience. Make sure that you EAT WELL all day, because they biggest mistake I made was not eating enough the first time I donated.
4. I think the red cross website is the first place to check and find a blood drive near you, you could also check with a local hospital. Once you're registered with the red cross the will call you every time you are eligible to donate again and they have a drive going on near you.
Its really not to bad, you don't even have to look at the arm where its happening if you don't want to! Plus you feel like a superhero afterwards . You are an awesome person for donating .
Hey Bluey, you and I are alike. They call me constantly to come give blood, I'm 0-neg so a universal donor. I just donated platelets the other day.
OP - Like the others said, you answer questions about your history - sex with strangers for money, use of drugs, pregnancies, etc. etc. Take temp, blood pressure, and pulse, You lay on a recliner, they stick a huge needle in your arm and remove a pint of blood. Generally, they have a really good touch and the only time it hurts is when it first pierces your skin. They cover it up with a piece of gauze so you don't see it sticking into your arm. You squeeze a little ball or something to keep the blood flowing and you're done. Then you are encouraged to stop at the canteen and have juice and cookies.
Thanks for considering it and hopefully you'll do it and feel good about helping someone else.
Yogurt - If you're so cultured, how come I never see you at the opera? Steven Colbert
I have been donating blood off and on since I was first eligible years ago, and am extra motivated now since a woman I work with has required several blood transfusions since radiation treatment got rid of her cancer but caused bone marrow damage that created a new round of health issues. She knew I was a blood donor after seeing me with the arm bandage after company blood drives, and after her battle with cancer and her blood transfusions she told me what a difference it had made for her and how much she appreciates blood donors!
Anyhow, the process requires reading several pages of health related criteria that affect eligibility to donate, and then you will be asked to respond verbally to a more detailed series of questions about your health and personal history intended to screen for anyone who has had procedures that can transmit blood related infections, used drugs, practiced risky sex, or has lived in parts of the world where certain blood borne problems are prevalent. You will also get your blood pressure and temperature taken and they will take a small sample via a finger stick to check your blood iron level.
That is really the most tedious part of the process; the actual blood donation is relatively quick. You lay on a cot or recliner type bed, and the technician will examine your arms and ask if you prefer to donate from one arm or the other. A tourniquet is applied to make the blood vessels inside your elbow pop up, and you get a foam ball to squeeze to promote the blood flow. The needle stick is a little painful but I find it doesn't bother me if I don't watch ;-). The poly bag that collects the blood usually hangs below you out of your eyesight. It is a sterile process, of course, so there isn't much that should bother anyone who is squeamish. The Red Cross folks are good about providing snacks and drinks, and are typically careful about making sure you aren't light headed or likely to faint.
Google "blood donation" and your area and you should be able to find the local Red Cross calendar of opportunities to donate.
I recently donated blood for the first time although I'm 21 so I could have been donating for a while...I was a little nervous too. The whole process was really simple. Since it was my first time they had me donate while being completely recumbent. They hang the bag of blood below the table so you can't see it. I guess you could see the bags hanging off the other tables...but just don't look! They tell you before they insert the needle to look away if you want. It's pretty painless.
Unfortunately I passed out right after finishing the donation...which I almost expected because I pass out really easily. They couldn't get my blood pressure to go back up and they ended up calling an ambulance. However, the one technician person said that in the 15 years she has done this...I was the first one they ever needed to call an ambulance for. Since the donation was completed when I passed out, I still got the donor card and am the "universal donor" blood type...so despite my bad experience, I still plan to go donate again
You can't donate if you weigh less than 110 lbs. That has irritated me since I went to my first blood drive in college almost 40 years ago. After emailing the Red Cross and asking about donating a lesser amount and being told that they've always done it that way, and they can't change it, I sent a letter to Dear Abby today. I suggested that the Red Cross have a program that takes a half unit of blood from donors currently under the weight limit, and uses that blood for pediatric patients. We'll see if anything comes of it.
Thanks. You'd think it made sense, but I've talked to Red Cross people at blood drives and emailed too. They just smile and nod. I guess change is not their strong suit. I figured I'd give it one more try using a very public forum.
Bless you for donating if you do, donated blood has saved my life more than once and I even donated blood for myself pre surgery. It's not scary really if you just relax and let them walk you through it. The techs are usually sweethearts and very gentle.
Last edited by darkmoonlady; Dec. 26, 2011 at 08:09 PM.
Kudos for you for researching blood donation. I donate regularly (every 8 weeks or so as allowed). I will do my best to answer your questions.
1) You never actually have to see the blood. I don't look when they put the needle in and normally the nurses put a gauze pad over where the needle is so I don't see it. The bag hangs under the chair so I don't see it fill. I can see some of the tubing but since all the blood is red, I just see red in the tube and don't actually see it flowing. Bring a book and red with your other hand. It only takes me about 5 or 6 minutes to fill my bag. It is not as bad as it sounds and the nurses are very good about making the process as comfortable as possible. Honestly the most uncomfortable part of the process for me is when they stick your finger to check your iron. It is only a few drops of blood but it is the most annoying part.
2) When you first get there, you show your ID and they give you some papers to look over. They include a list of medications you might have taken or are taking that could disqualify you from donations. Also other medical conditions or countries you have visited that might cause problems. Then a nurse will call you back into a private room/area. They will double check that they have the correct information on you and check your iron levels, take your temperature and check your blood pressure. If your iron checks out, they normally leave you alone to answer about 30 questions on a computer. These questions include stuff about your sexual history among other things. Just be honest. Just because you might answer yes to a question won't always disqualify you. I always have to answer that I was a dependent of the military even though I never traveled overseas when my dad was in the military. The nurse will come back in when you have indicated you are finished and as some clarification questions if need be. Remember, this is all medical information to therefore confidential. Then you will confirm your identity again and sign the release form.
Next you get to go to the donation bed. They will ask if you prefer an arm to donate from. When you lie down and roll up your sleeves, the nurse will again ask you to confirm your name (I think this time to make sure the donation bags are used on the correct people). They get the bags all set up and put a tourniquet on your arm to help find your vein. Normally once they find it they release the tourniquet and scrub the area for about an minute with betadine and iodine. Then it comes time to put the needle in. Like I said, I don't watch and they will put a gauze pad over the needle normally. Normally it takes me less than 10 minutes to fill the bag. Once the bag fills, they will fill a few vials of blood from the tube and then remove the needle. They will ask you to put pressure on gauze pads over the needle prick and hold your arm straight up in the air for about a minute. Then they will put some gauze and tape on and clean up the betadine that is on your skin around your bandaid.
Normally there is a volunteer to help you get up and over to the table where they will get you drinks and cookies. They ask that you sit around for 10 or 15 minutes to see how the donation effects you. They give you instructions about drinking lots of fluids and eating well the rest of the day and when you are feeling well you can leave. It is probably a good idea to have a ride home the first time until you know how donations effects you.
Here is the most important advice I can give you. If you start feeling woozy during blood donation, tell the nurses IMMEDIATELY! I even keep an eye on the people around me as one time a girl next to me fainted so quickly that she didn't have time to tell them and I alerted the nurses to help her. There is nothing wrong or shameful about not being able to donate and no one should ever tell you differently. I have never once felt dizzy or lightheaded either during or after donation but I know everyone is different.
3)Again I would have someone to drive you home after the first one until you know how it effects you. I don't really change my routine after I donate. I normally won't ride or do any hard exercise afterwards but I look after my horses and again, I've never had a problem. But again, keep plans light in case you need more time to recover.
4) I have donated and the traveling places and they are very sterile and I have no problem there. There is a red cross center in my town that I go to. The hospital would have information on where you can donate locally (might not be actually at the hospital but close by).
Again, kudos to you for doing this. It is a very personal and brave thing to do. If it doesn't effect you too much it is a much needed resource that can save a lot of lives. If given the chance, you might want to go watch someone else donate to see what it is all about. If you live anywhere near me, you are more than welcome to watch me donate the next time. PM me if you have any more questions I can help answer.
Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.
I've given gallons of blood over the years...the Red Cross really likes mine because I'm Rh negative, it's clean and I'm an "in and out" fast donor with really big veins . They call me every eight weeks.
It's not a big deal. You won't see the bag of blood because it's usually hanging underneath the cot thing you are lying on (gravity helps it run faster).
You go into the donor center, they hand you a form to fill out, asking a bunch of personal questions about your sexual history and whether you've ever received an organ transplant, had a tattoo or piercing recently, travelled to Subsaharan Africa, lived for more than a year in Great Britain, etc....
Then,they send you to talk to an intake person behind a screen, she/he confirms some of the information on the form and your identity, takes your BP and does a finger stick to check your hematocrit. If you pass the medical, screening, you are shown to a cot.
A, generally, really nice, person puts a rubber band around your arm, gives you a little cardboard tube with vetrap around it to squeeze a few times, sticks the needle in your arm (doesn't hurt much!), hooks it up to the bag, releases the rubber band and you're flowing. 10-20 minutes and the bag is full. They pull the needle out,put a piece of gauze on the needle site and ask you to hold your arm above your head for a minute. Then they tape the gauze down, help you sit up and watch you stand to make sure you are steady. Then you go to a table and drink juice and eat cookies for 15 minutes and you're done!
I've never, ever had a problem of any kind. One VERY IMPORTANT thing is to drink a lot of water before you go, that will make sure you are well hydrated, that your veins are easy to find and stick, that the blood flows our easily and that you don't get lightheaded afterward. I can't stress enough how much being hydrated will improve the experience for everyone involved. Every time I go I see someone having a hard time because their veins are tiny and inaccessible, collapsing or the blood is taking forever to come out...most often due to not having drank enough water before hand!
My husband and I sometimes have some friendly competition, if we get on beds at the same time, to see who can dump the pint out faster...usually him, because his veins are HUGE, but sometimes I beat him because he forgot to drink the water.
Don't drink the night after you donate, as your blood will be diluted and you'll get drunk more easily .
I am very squeamish, but I've successfully donated blood. I have tiny veins, so it takes quite a while. I never look at the needle or where the blood is collecting. They have tvs where I've donated, so I watch those or bring a book with me. I've always driven myself afterwards, but I do sit at the table for a while and have an apple juice and a snack. Once I donated blood while at college and my time got short. I jumped up and started walking to class, and that time I did get pretty woozy. I just didn't take a long enough break after donating. I don't usually head out for strenuous exercise or to ride after donating blood (as in, the same day).
Having said that, I have known people who can't donate because they faint. I'd say give it a try and see if you can tolerate it. If you're nervous, ask someone to take you and pick you up - but if you can't find anyone, just make sure that you get something to eat and drink afterwards and don't rush yourself out of there.