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!"