When Lent rolled around this year I sat and thought about what I was going to go off. Snacks? Alcohol? (Unlikely) Am I too old to go off being mean to siblings? Instead of going on a 40 day diet I decided I was going to do some of the good deeds I promise myself I’ll get round to but usually forget about – one being donating blood.
I’d never given blood before but my brother told me he used to drop into the Belfast City Hospital when he was at university and donate there. I started to Google where exactly it was and what times it was open so that I could organise going around my class timetable. Little did I know that the Northern Ireland Blood Transfusion Service, located toward the back of Belfast City Hospital, was a mere 20 minute walk from the Holylands and open from 9:45am – 8.00pm Monday to Thursday and until 4:45pm on Fridays, meaning it’s easy enough to drop in either before or after class/work.
Before I made the journey to donate I was able to double check that I was eligible by taking this short, easy quiz: http://www.nibts.hscni.net/donating-blood/can-i-donate/. Once I arrived I had to fill out a form confirming I was eligible as it was my first time donating, however the nurses assured me that once I was registered I wouldn’t have to do this again. I was given my number and waited until I was called by one of the nurses.
When I made the decision to go, two of my friends said that they would donate as well which I was grateful for as I found myself getting slightly nervous as I filled out the form. Being a Grey’s Anatomy veteran I felt like I’d had my fair share of experiences with needles and blood, even open heart surgeries. Sadly, I wasn’t sure if binge watching the surgeons at Seattle Grace was going to be of much help to me now.
Once I explained to the nurses that it was my first time and I was slightly nervous they were extremely helpful in ensuring I didn’t see the needle or blood and reminded me that I didn’t have to go through with the donation if I felt uncomfortable. The needle prick wasn’t as sore as I had expected it to be, the nurses chatted to me throughout the whole process about everything from uni to the weather making sure my mind was off the fact that half a litre of blood was currently being drained from my body. The time flew and before I knew it I was finished. Once they took the needle out they popped a plaster and dressing on where the needle had been previously to ensure I didn’t get any infections afterwards.
So, if you’re planning on heading out that night maybe consider a long sleeve shirt so you’re not sporting large brown dressing walking around Bot. I was told to rest for a few minutes afterwards before heading to the refreshments table. My nanny told me that years ago people were given Guinness after donations – whilst this is sadly no longer the case I was given the option between orange or lemon juice, milk and water. I was told to sit for a while and try and drink plenty of liquids to help replace the fluid I’d just lost. This meant I had time to sit and enjoy the biscuits on offer while watching my friends don nervous expressions I was sure I was wearing just 10 minutes previously. While some of the girls were off biscuits for lent the nurse assured us it didn’t count on this occasion because keeping blood sugar levels up was key.
Once we completed our first donation we were informed that a small booklet would be sent to our homes which would include our blood type but also let us keep a record of donations (women can donate up to 3 times a year while men can donate up to 4.) The whole process was roughly 45 minutes. Because it was so easy I felt guilty that I hadn’t gotten round to donating before and we learned that, amazingly, just 1 donation can help up to 3 patients.
Roisin Watters is a final year BSc in Communication, Advertising and Marketing student at Ulster University. She can be contacted at: https://www.linkedin.com/in/roisin-watters-661a03a6/, and on Twitter @Roisin_Watters