I did it. I went and donated blood for the first time and they gave me a sticker and a pin.
My sister passed out when she donated blood so having never done it before I had no idea how I would react so I took along my personal medical and support staff. Of course, we were early so we got to watch as they set up the facility in the auditorium of the Tillsonburg Community Centre. I was amazed at how quickly and efficiently they converted the dance hall into a medical centre. Everyone was extremely professional yet welcoming and engaging.
Being a coward and feeling a bit guilty because I was there for my own health reasons, it was good to see so many people there ready and willingly to offer up their life sustaining fluids. The women in reception were very friendly and helpful which got me off to a good start and they said Joan could be with me through the whole process. Since it was my first time I had to do a few extra steps but once they got me registered it was a simple step by step progression.
First I had to fill out a questionnaire. These things always cause me such conflict since my answers never quite fit the yes or no mode. When I do one on paper, I write little notes in the margins to explain my answers but this was done on a tablet which eliminates any clarifications. They did give a not sure button so that helped. I usually find these things quite hilarious and quite likely, by the time I was done, the people in the booths beside me were wondering about the giggling donor next door.
There is a very clear purpose for the questions, I am sure, but at the time in my heightened state of anxiety I couldn’t think of any. First, the computer doesn’t know my age, so pregnancy and breastfeeding questions seem pretty silly. I giggled. I would imagine some folks my age get tattoos and piercing but other than what they were going to do to me, an intentional invasion of my body is highly unlikely. They were interested in where my mother came from and her activities, but didn’t care much about my dad. I found that curious. They also seemed quite interested in my sex life asking such things as if I had sex with a man who had had sex with another man. It flashed through my mind just how that conversation would go and laughed out loud. When I left the booth I mentioned to my handler that I didn’t even know where 'Togo' was let alone had sex with anyone in Togo. She laughed, too.
From there I went to have some paperwork done, my blood pressure taken and a finger prick test. She gathered up six bags and six vials. Seeing the shocked look on my face she explained they only take one bag of whole blood and then separate it into the various components. That was a relief.
I then settled into the 'extraction chair,' my term. They allowed Joan to bring a chair and sit beside me and I only just about broke her hand once, when they put in the 'extraction tube,' my term. I was prepared but it wasn’t as bad as I expected. The technician was wonderful, explaining every step and joking right along with me and Joan. It didn’t seem like any time at all when she said I only had a few more ounces to go. She told me I just saved three lives.
That is a pretty overwhelming feeling. Most often there is very little we can do to help improve the life of another let alone save a life. Donating blood is a simple but very effective way to do just that. In fact, you can save three.
And they give you cookies and pop.