So… I did it!
I finally really did it.
Some years ago (about ten) I went to take all the tests etc, and it turned out it was ok for me to donate blood, but then…
Then I could tell you I had a piercing done and had to wait, that I got the flu and had to wait, that I took some meds and had to wait…
The truth is that “then” I was chicken shit and never got to the actual donation.
Yet this idea, of donating blood, stuck with me (ask my mom, she can entertain you for a whole afternoon with tales about me being a stubborn child).
So this year I decided to try again, in july I took all the tests again, and again they told me “ok, you can donate” and on september 1st I donated blood for the first time.
Partial, not whole, only blood platelets.
Now, let me tell you ALL about it, but let’s make a deal: a fist part where I’ll write about the technical stuff, and a second part with all the gory details and a couple of pictures for those of you who love this stuff!
Here’s how it works, concearning my local donation centre (Avis Pavia).
You call, you schedule a visit.
During the visit they give you a survey, a doctor visits you (height, weight, blood pressure, ECG, lungs auscultation, a talk with the doctor, and your familiarities with eventual diseases) and then they take a sample of blood to test.
Then they send you home the results, where they write big and clear if you can donate your blood or not.
On my results they wrote “Can donate. Only blood components”.
In Italy, at least here in Pavia, they told me that, if I wasn’t going to donate blood in 6 months, they would have made me pay for the blood tests, and rightfully so! Too many people took advantage of this system to get free blood tests!!!
Anyway, let’s move on.
Once you get your results and you can donate, you call the centre again and you book a donation.
Actually… if I could donate whole blood I didn’t *have to* book the donation, but since I needed special equipment, that only the hospital has, I had to (which, IMHO, is better: you don’t have to wait all morning and you’re sure you’ll be sought after well!).
And here’s how the day of the donation goes like (don’t worry, no gory details… yet!).
You show up on time, empty stomach, you register at the desk and wait for them to call you.
When they call you they take a blood sample to check that you’re perfectly fine that day.
Then, at least this is my experience, they give you free access to the vending machines and you can have (finally!) breakfast (I looooove the hot chocolate from the vending machines, I know… I know… but I just love it!).
After that they give you a survey (the one about trips to foreign countries, your alcohol drinking habits and promiscuous behaviour) and you wait for your call again (they need your blood test results).
Then it’s time for the donation itself.
Last bit of information before we get to the straightforward bit 😛
Those who donate whole blood, according to what you can find online, will have a very short donation: 15 to 20 minutes.
Those who, like me, can donate only parts of it will have to wait a little bit more…
Plasma donations, always according to online infos, lasts about an hour, platelets donation is a little more than an hour. These are just general indications, blood donation depends on a quantity of different things.
The doctor I had there told me that there are some procedures that can last up to a few hours…
Btw, when you’re done donating they will tell you to sit quietly for as long as you want/need to recover, then you’ll get again free access to the vending machines to have a well deserved second hobbit breakfast. And also a justification paper to have a “free day off” from work
Another doctor, who maybe saw my pale complexion and mistook it for anxiety (well, I wasn’t exactly peachy, but that’s just my regular face…), took the time to explain me a load of things about my donation. The machinery I was going to be attached to has a software where they input your datas (name, age, weight, blood test results, etc) and it decides how “big” your donation will be (of course caring about letting you leave on your legs!!!) and keeps a record about your donation.
While the decision about what blood parts you should donate is made by the doctor, according to your datas, the datas from the computer and what they need most for their “blood bank”.
Now, onto the gory details!!! Yay!!!
If you’re sensitive about these topics or are easily set off by any of this… just jump to the conclusions… ehy, you’ve been warned!
Usually, when I have to have my blood tested, I don’t like to watch, as soon as the doctor starts handling syringes and needles and whatnot, I start looking at all the kid’s drawing on the walls and say “Please excuse me, but I’m not watching”.
Anyway, they call me for the small blood test, I sit down (they have amazing armchairs! So soft, with so many resting bits and tubes and eww…), the doctor starts checking my veins, and here’s the conversation without any details that might spoil it
“Mmh, let me see these veins… uhm… they’re small!”
“During the previous visit they told me to tell you I have one arm which is better for donation… maybe it’s the right one… I don’t remember, I’m sorry!”
“Allright, don’t worry, it’s not like you do not have veins… it’s just they’re small… I’m just wondering if they’ll resist to the pressure of the machine”
“Oh… oh come on please don’t say that!!!” (Heeeeeeeeeeeeelp, panic panic panic, internal screamng!!!)
“Well, we’ll see… Anyway now I’m taking a blood sample from your wrist, it might hurt a little”
“Ok, I’m not watching”
“A tad bit” (be stoic, be stoic! And loose that crumbled up pain expression on your face, it causes wrinkles!)
Hollygolightly the pain!!! Anyway now I can have breakfast, and there is nothing that a good amount of chocolate can’t fix.
Pause, survey, some reading.
It’s up to me again, the real donation now, somehow I managed not to think about the “I’m wondering if your vein can take the pressure” thing and all the consequential imagery about a splatter movie involving my veins and a lot of blood and pain… I’m quite nervouse but pretty sure everything’s gonna be alright.
I sit down, the nice doctor comes over and tells me all the technical details, while he handles needles etcetera.
“Please excuse me, I’m listening to you, but if you don’t mind I’m not going to watch this”
I don’t even feel the needle.
The previous doctor gets there to explain me how my donation will be like: the machine I’m attached to will take blood from the needle I have in my vein, the machine then works on it, and then, always through the same needle, will re-inject my own blood with a tad bit of anticoagulant.
Said substance might give me some numbness on the tip of the nose and on my lips, if this happens I have to call them so they can give me something else (it’s about calcium, chemical reactions and stuff… please bear with me, I studied philosophy).
She tells me to keep my arm still and straight, to check on the monitor that my vein pressure doesn’t get too low and if this happens, nothing to worry about, just squish the squishy toy they put in my hand (the hand attached to the pipes and stuff of course), it was a nice little green heart.
While during the re-injection phase I don’t have to do a thing.
She gives me a bottle of water and discourages me to read my book because “The first times you might get sick and nauseated from it”.
So I look at the monitor I’m attached to, I look at my arm, there’s a little red pipe going from it into the machine… and the monitor says “51 minutes”.
In a couple of minutes I realize that that’s the duration of my donation… oh well… too bad I can’t read…
There’s a little old fashioned tv perched on top of a metal cabinet, old music glories from the eighties are on, the volume’s so low, all the other machines are humming, it’s quite monotonous but I’m comfy, so that’s ok.
Oh, look, first re-injection phase (“return”)…
Heeeeeyyyy… what’s this cold thing branching up and inside my arm, soooo coool I can feel my cold blood!
Drawing. Return. Drawing. Rerturn. “How are you doing?” “Fine”. Drawing (squish the heart, squish the heart!). Return.
Some text messaging.
“How are you doing?” “Fine”.
Ooooooohhh look how long and wavy is that corridor over there…
“How are you doing?”
I’ll drink some water… booooring… How long has it been? Boooring.
Oooohhh look, so weird, I have a needle stuck in my arm and a red pipe going out from it but I’m not phased by looking at it.
Am I hungry or is my stomach numb?
“How are you doing?”
She talked about being numb on my nose and lips… I must be hungry.
Drawing. Return. How are you doing fine. Drawingreturnhowareyoudoingfine.
Let’s take some pictures… Aunt would you like to see a picture of my blood donation? What about no?! Dad would you like to see a picture? What about no?! Sa would you like to see a picture? You mean you can see stuff? GET THE FRIGGIN PICTURE! Ah-ah! I did it!
I think I’m feeling tipsy.
“How are you doing?”
“My belly’s numb, is it allright?”
“Let me give you an injection of some vasodilator”
Yay, another piercing…
But then again no, she injects it in the appropriate space of all the little tubes… and I’m glad because it was an incredibly large syringe of stuff…
“You might feel warmth”
“I’d love to!”
Anticoagulant, vasodilator… if I get a papercut today I’ll bleed to death…
Drawing. Return. “How are you doing?” “My head’s spinning a bit, but nothing major” (Be stoic, be stoic).
We’re halfway… sheesh…
Some more texting, toying around with my smartphone, drink some, head spinning, I’ll rest it on the back of my armchair and I’ll just stay here pumping my muscles squishing the green heart…
Ooooooh look… all the tubes and pipes go into a transparent little box.
Drawing. Look how it fills up quickly! Is that my blood? Gosh, it spills super fast!!!
Return. It foams up… uhm…
Oh, and that must be the bag where my platelets are being collected!
No waaaay! They’re a transparent yellow-ish colour! “Once upon a time… life!” lied, they’re not round tiles with multiple hands!
Were those hands?
Ouch… my wrist hurts where they drew blood for the testing. Ouchie!
Oh, yay, “finish”! I’ve finished!
“Return. 52 minutes”
WHAT??? I really hope the computer’s wrong!
The computer was wrong.
They unplug me “Everything’s fine? Just lay there as much as you want and go get breakfast, take your time”
Well… maybe I can wait until the corridor is shorter and steady.
Now breakfast, breeeaaaakfaaaaast… some more chocolate from the vending machines, if Professor Lupin says it’s good for Harry Potter it’s going to be good for a muggle like me as well.
“Are you happy with your donation?” asks Sa
“I’ll tell you when I’m over it”
The donation itself isn’t fun nor enjoyable, but it doesn’t hurt a bit (well the blood drawing from my wrist hurt like hell for days), I’d go as far as saying that feeling your head spinning and a little dizzy is quite nice… Basically, I’ll do it again, no troubles, and next time I’ll be much more relaxed (and maybe I’ll be also able to read).
Most of all it would be great if everyone donated blood at least once in their lives: blood banks are always quite dry (no pun intended)…
But most of all let me consider this: after doing it I received a lot of compliments… starting with doctors and nurses, who thanked me a lot, and my friends who told me I’ve been brave and did an amazing thing… It feels to me like I did nothing at all… I just had to lay down and let a machine draw some blood, no big deal…
But, do we still use the “rite of passage” expression? Well, to me it was, a rite of passage… unexpected and I realized it only afterwards… after all I donated blood because I wanted to do something good for others, not to have compliments or ANYTHING in return… yet this “rite of passage” happened… and all those “you’re brave” got under my skin (again… no pun intended) and… and I feel great