Saturday, October 12, 2013

Give the gift of life! You'll get cookies. :)

I meant to post sooner but it ended up being a crazy week... anyhoo!

On Thursday, I went to donate blood for the first time in a decade. I used to give regularly but had to stop for several years for various health issues. But I am just fine to donate now, so I made an appointment for the mobile clinic in our nearby town of Alexandria.

When I got to the Glengarry Sports Palace (no, I have no idea why it's called a palace, because it's anything but!), I saw two very shiny "bloodmobiles" in the parking lot!

This donation was particularly meaningful for me, because our friend Gary is currently receiving life-saving blood and platelet transfusions on a daily basis. Whenever Gary gets a transfusion, he and our friend Brian, along with Gary's nurse, always say a word of thanks to the anonymous donor who has given the gift of life. I'm not sure how it works in Canada (as I've never received a transfusion, although my mother did on a few occasions) but in the USA, where Gary is, the state the blood came from is indicated on the bag. Gary gets bags o' blood from all over the USA. I think there was one from Oklahoma last week. That's pretty cool!

Not everyone can give blood, but if you can, I'm here to reassure you that it's really a piece of cake. The staff are always super-nice to their victims, I mean, patients. You are treated like royalty, and get free cookies and juice when you are done, not to mention various stickers and pins.

And they are very good at sticking needles in veins at these clinics. I barely notice when the needle goes in; the staff are very experienced with this! I always breathe in as the needle goes in my vein, as I find it helps me to relax into it.

If you've never donated before, this is how it works in Canada. You go in and give your info, then a nurse takes a tiny sample of blood from your finger to test your hemoglobin levels. If your levels are good, you then fill out a questionnaire. Then another nurse takes you aside to a private spot and goes over the questions with you, to make sure you are eligible to donate. The nurse will also take your temperature and blood pressure, and ask you general questions about your health. She will also check your arms to make sure you're not an I.V. drug user.

Once that's all done, it's off to the comfy lounge chair! Usually you can pick which arm you want to use. The kind nurse in charge of you will make you squeeze a little ball, so she can find a nice juicy vein for the needle. Once the needle is in, the donation starts. You pump that ball a bit every once in a while, just to help keep things flowing...

There goes my blood!

When I first started donating in my 20s, I was incredibly slow to fill a bag. It would take me an hour or more to get through a donation. The staff were always remarking on my turtle-like pace. For some reason, I can now fill a bag in eight minutes. I noticed that changed years back when I started doing a lot of aerobic exercise, so I wonder if the fact that I now run regularly has anything to do with my speedy blood flow?

After the bag is full, the nurse gently removes the needle. You must apply pressure to the spot for five minutes, then you get a teeny-weenie round Band-aid. Once the nurse has established that you're not feeling dizzy or ill, you walk over to the "recovery" area where volunteers serve you drinks and cookies. After about ten minutes, you are usually good to go!

You should take it easy for about 24 hours, drink lots of fluids, and eat well. Not a good time to run a marathon. But I always feel fine after a donation.

See my teeny-weenie bandage?

I was surprised to discover that Thursday marked my 25th blood donation. It had been so long since I was last there, I'd lost count. So I got a lovely little "25" pin...

I feel lucky that I am on the giving rather than the receiving end of this process right now. I am also aware that life is fragile and that such things can change in an instant. So it makes me very happy to give this little gift of life, not only because it will help someone like our friend Gary, but also because I never know when I or someone I love might need blood. Imagine what it would be like if your loved one couldn't get the blood needed to save his/her life? 

Plus those cookies are really very tasty! So let me reassure you if you're nervous about giving for the first time: it's really not hard, and the staff are always super-kind to you when you're at a clinic. And when you walk out of the building with your little Band-aid and a tummy full of cookies, you can't help but feel good that you helped somebody, somewhere, and maybe even saved a life.

In Canada it is really easy to find clinics and even book appointments online. Just go to Canada Blood Services and you'll find everything you need.

And here's a little blast from the past...

This was taken back in 1989, when I went to a clinic at a local mall when I was living in Pickering. I was still married to my ex at the time, if you're wondering about the surname. (And two days after this picture was taken, I dumped him. Which I think explains why I look so serene in this photo. Best decision EVER! :))

My 25th and all my future donations will be in honour of Gary.

As Canadian Blood Services says, "Blood: It's in you to give!"


  1. You go!!! Getting drunk was so cheap after giving blood, too...I can't donate any more (not heavy enough) but I used to regularly.

    1. I'm already a total booze lightweight... I'm sure I could get hammered on a quarter cup of beer after a donation!

  2. I so admire you for doing this. Congrats on the "25" pin! I would love to donate blood. The American Red Cross hasn't wanted my blood for years because I'm gay. Healthy. Clean. Rare blood. But gay. No, thank you. I don't know if that's changed in the two years since I left the country. I'll have to see what the policies are in Spain. Thanks for the inspiration.

    1. That rule hasn't changed here, and I think it's appalling and discriminatory and ridiculous. Don't get me going!!!! Maybe Spain is more enlightened. One can hope!

    2. Sad. I always expect Canada to be more enlightened than the U.S. (Ironic than a straight porn actor/actress could donate blood, but I couldn't.)

      I looked up Spain's policy. Yes, they will accept my donation!

  3. It's a good thing. I once arranged for the Blood Mobile to come to work. The president of the company was not terribly pleased at lost man hours, but would have appeared downright un-American to stop it. We had about five hundred employees and boy, did they turn out. Liked the cookies, too, I guess.

    I wish I still could. When I got booted out I was up to several gallons; I don't remember how many. I used to have a card in my wallet, but some scoundrel stole my purse a couple of years ago, and that knowledge ended. I think times is cooler than gallons. I wonder if the USA has changed that, yet.

  4. If my mom didn't hate needles she would have given blood.
    Here in Sweden can gay people leave blood too :)

  5. I have only one good vein for blood and over the years it's been so over-used that it's all calloused now. I have to coach the nurses trying to use it to keep it from rolling away.

  6. You've given a super description of the process and you're a great salesman for donating blood. 25 donations? Awesome!

  7. We would both love to give blood but the powers that be think that because we lived in the UK during the 1980s we may be carrying mad cow disease. I'll admit I'm a mad cow at times but we are both vegan for crying out loud (and were vegetarian then)!
    Jane x

  8. The last time I (tried to) give blood, the technician couldn't hit my vein after repeated tries, so I told her to call it a day. It's not that I don't see the value of giving blood, but the whole experience of repeated jabs and a wiggling needle in my arm turned me off.

    I respect you for giving blood, though. It's a selfless act that helps people immensely.

  9. Thank you for this reminder. I have had to have transfusions about 15 years ago so realize the value. The powers that be sent me a letter afterwards saying I was not allowed to donate blood for 5 years. It was during the mad cow thing so must have been an insurance precaution. Anyhow I should be OK now to give again. I needed that heads up. My grandchildren might need some one day.

  10. After all those donations, you can't have much left!

  11. Congrats and thank you Knatolee!
    Love from Me and Gary!

  12. Wonderful post and I like your addition of the blast from the past :-)

  13. You are a trooper =)
    Cookies are an incentive, for sure.
    Love the kitty necklace!

  14. I am a fairly regular donor, and it's interesting to see there are even (minor) regional differences in the blood donation procedure. I go to a permanent clinic here in Toronto, which features nice donation lounge chairs and booked appointments. After the donation, I get a large bandaid and a huge flourescent wrap to prevent bruising, not a tiny bandaid.

    One excellent tip I've picked up from the nurses and phlebotomists at the site: for a fast donation, drink a lot of water the day of your donation. It really works!


Thank you for all your comments, which I love to read!