So this week is National Blood Week here in the UK, which aims to increase awareness about blood donation and encourage new sign-ups and people who haven’t donated in a while to do so again. I have donated in both England and Wales, although haven’t donated for over a year. It’s something I kept meaning to do, but sometimes it can be difficult to find an appointment that I can get to.
I think I have donated 4 times, but I’m not entirely sure as the blood services are actually run completely separately in England, Wales and Scotland which means that some of the donation guidelines are different, even though they do share supplies. Whilst in my second year of university, two years ago, I had a project where I had to pick a cause, research into it and promote it. I chose blood donation. At the time I had donated once.
I honestly believe that donating a pint of blood is an incredibly easy, selfless act with huge benefits. I may not have seen first hand someone receive blood, but as my mum is a nurse I am well aware of the difference it can make. Sometimes it is literally what tips the balance life or death.
Anyone who follows me on twitter will have seen that I have been retweeting this year’s campaign. Not just because I think it’s an important cause, but also because I love the design. Seriously, whoever did this did a great job and they’re bringing up some points I discovered two years that apparently still aren’t common public knowledge, so I want to help spread the word.
Below is my favourite message and what I felt was the single most important thing I discovered when researching blood donation at university:
That’s right – you don’t have to wait a year!
In recent years there has been a fall in the number of people signing up to donate blood, which the media loves to blame on young people’s love for tattoos and piercings. Well guess what? I have tattoos and piercings and I would plan my donations around it. After all, you have to wait four months between donations anyway, so why not donate then get your new piece around the same time, then whilst you’re saving up for your next one you wait the required four months. Totally do-able unless you’re someone who is regularly getting work on a larger tattoo, like some of my friends (not that there’s anything from with that).
Today marks the start of National Blood Week and I am booked in to donate on Saturday. I’m actually looking forward to it. The process is pretty simple – book a slot online at www.blood.co.uk, make sure you stay hydrated and have plenty to eat then go to your appointment. There you will be given a form to fill out asking about anything that could potentially make you blood unsuitable for donating, e.g. trips abroad, unprotected sexual activity, illness, pregnancy. You then sit in a private booth with a nurse who goes over the form with you to double check and then they take a single drop of blood from your finger tip and test its iron levels. In my opinion, this is the worst part for which my friend always calls me a whimp, its not actually that bad, I mean I have several cartilage piercings and a rib tattoo, all of which are way worse and it wouldn’t stop me donating. Then you go lie down and they insert a needle into a vein in your arm and give you something to squeeze, like a bandage. This helps with blood flow. It takes 10mins to actually donate a pint of blood and there’s a nurse there to talk to and make sure everything’s okay. After that, they give you a plaster, a drink and a biscuit to make sure your blood sugar levels aren’t low. Simples.
After that, your blood is sent away for testing and you receive a letter in the post which lets you know what your blood type is. Mine is the most common O+, but I have some rare blood subtype Ro that apparently only 1% of the population have. According to my letter, Ro is incredibly effective in the treatment of chronic conditions like sickle cell disease. Pretty cool huh? My dad actually has the same subtype, so that’s handy to know, just in case he ever needs any, we match!
I’ll leave you with a couple of facts that stuck with me. I think they are so good to know, as it makes donating more rewarding:
- A pint of blood can be split into three components and therefore could save three lives
- All cancer patients receive blood transfers – as 1 in 3 people will get cancer in their lifetime, it’s good to pay it forward
- If you have O- blood, you are a universal donor meaning your blood can be given to absolutely anyone, but you can only receive O-
- Only 8% of the population are O-
- Because O- is safe for everybody, it is used in emergency cases where there isn’t time to asses the blood type
- O- is also used for pregnant women as babies can have a different type
Just because you’re not O- doesn’t mean your blood isn’t useful though! If you have ever considered donating before, but just haven’t gotten round to it, now is the perfect time, as there are loads of appointments going through National Blood Week, so you should find one to suit you!
As a reward to making it through to the end, here’s the poster I designed back at university! I hand drew it and then finished it up on a mac.
Have you ever donated blood? Would you consider doing it?