Let’s not kid ourselves. I knew as soon as I signed up to donate blood that it would not go over too well. I asked a lot of friends and coworkers about their experiences, and I got tons of different answers. Some people donate all the time. Some people did it once and refuse to do it again. Some had a rough first time, but went back and don’t mind it now.
Our company’s CEO organized a group-donate during a local blood drive since we researched and posted information about how low blood drive responses are in the winter months. I waffled at first, but decided that if I qualified, I’d do it. I’m a universal donor, so I’d hope that there’d be enough blood in reserves in case I ever need it.
I knew I’d be fine, but I also knew that the chances of me passing out were nearly 100%. I emailed all my coworkers who were also donating and asked if anyone had an appointment time close to mine and would mind giving me a ride. Our CEO was nice enough to let me ride with him and another guy.
We got there a little before our appointments, but the blood drive was low on volunteers and staff, so they were still in the process of setting up. When I finally got called back to answer all the ridiculous questions, it seemed like tons of things kept happening to stall the process. I had TONS of extra time to work myself up and get nervous, but I did a pretty good job of keeping calm.
When the attendant was putting my information into the system, someone came over and told him he’d spelled another donors name incorrectly. He left to attend to that. Then when it was time for me to get in the donation chair, they couldn’t get the blood bag scanning stickers off the little sticker page. So I waited in the chair while 2 people worked on a page of stickers… Then as the nurse-guy was wiping the inside of my arm with iodine, another woman at the snack table began to feel faint so he left to help her.
All the while I was thinking, “Please someone get this show on the road because I’m going to die of anticipation.” Finally, the nurse-guy came back and re-iodined my arm, and stuck the needle in.
And it was fine.
The hand of the arm that was bleeding felt a little weird, but it wasn’t a huge deal. One very nice attendant, Fran, was watching one lady giving double red blood cells and me. I told her I was nervous about passing out, so she suggested I “snack” on some slushy ice because keeping cool might help me stay conscious.
So I tried to eat some ice and squeeze the little hand thing every 10 seconds. I spent the whole donation counting intervals of 10, squeezing my hand thingy, and eating ice. It was going swimmingly, until we got to the end.
Fran checked out my blood bag every once and a while, and when it was full she put a cap on the tube that led from my arm to the bag. Other things were happening, and I think she needed one more vial before I was good to go. Meanwhile, my arm felt like the blood flow had stopped completely. It started throbbing, and the site where the needle was still in my arm started to get painful. I really wanted it to be over at that point, but I kept reminding myself that I’d done it. It wasn’t that bad. I hadn’t even felt faint like I thought I would.
That was until I started to feel sick. It came in one quick wave, and I had just enough time to tell the attendants that I was starting to feel nauseated when I felt the dreaded “I’m about to lose it” feeling. Everything started to sound muffled, and my vision started going black from the periphery and working it’s way in.
I don’t remember what I said to Fran, but I let her know that I felt like passing out. She told me to start coughing. “Coughing?” “Like you’re tryin’ ta hack somethin’ up.” It’s really hard to focus when your vision starts going black. I tried coughing a few times (I think it sounded like I was trying to clear my throat), but I felt like I was spending all my energy grasping on to the few speckles of light and consciousness that were quickly fading away.
I remember telling Fran that I was really sorry about my impending loss of consciousness. Before I left to give blood, one of my coworkers joked with me that, “When you pass out you lose control of your bowels!” We laughed, but when I woke up my pants were freezing cold and soaking wet.
Before I passed out I tried to set my cup of slushy ice between my knees so I could hold the barf bag they gave me when I said I felt nauseated. I managed to spill the ice into my lap when I lost it, so I was covered in water and ice when I roused. Very awesome to go back to work looking like you peed yourself…
The plus was that I got extra juice and cookies at the snack table for being a nice donator and for apologizing profusely to Fran about wasting time by passing out and taking up a chair they could be using to get more blood donations.
I felt pretty queasy and puny for the next 24 hours. I was surprised how long the sickly feeling stayed with me. It may have been a combination of donating blood, eating too many sweet snacks, and not eating a lot of real food. I think most of the “side-effects” (if they’re called that?) have gone away now, except for the soreness in my arm.
It’s still pretty bruisy and weird-feeling, but nothing that I can’t ignore for 23 hours of my day. However, all in all, I’m glad I overcame my fear of donating. I recommend everyone do it for the sake of saving lives. Plus, even if you do pass out, they take excellent care of you. Give blood! Save a life!