Bizarrely, I've managed to go 37 years without giving blood. It's not for lack of trying, as it's something I've always wanted to do, having grown up with my mum giving blood on a regular basis. I've previously registered a couple of times, only to be turned away the first time because I'd had appendicitis and the second a couple of years ago in Clapham Junction because they were short-staffed and had to turn people away. I also tried to give blood when I lived in Australia in the early noughties, but they wouldn't accept me because of mad cow disease - at least that's what they told me.
Anyway, I finally managed it! Given what has been happening lately, there's nothing like a global pandemic to make you feel your own mortality, so I thought I'd look into how I could give blood locally. I registered, and managed to get an appointment at my local blood centre in Tooting, next to St George's Hospital about a month later. I was amazed at how busy it was in there, which pleased me greatly because it's awesome to see so many people giving up their time to give blood, but also freaked me out slightly because I don't think I've been in a room with that many people in about four months. I sanitised my hands and waited to be seen...
The process was pretty straightforward - I was asked all of the usual questions at the beginning (have you had a temperature or cough lately? Have you been around anyone recently who has tested positive for Covid? Etc.) but I got through that with flying colours. I was then invited to have a pint of water with an electrolyte tablet in it (fruity...) and sat down to wait while I read through all the info in the waiting room. I was then triaged, and they took a drop of my blood to test that it had enough iron content in it - if you don't have enough, you can't give blood - and then I was led through to the chair where they were going to plug me in and take my blood.
One thing that has been absolutely amazing throughout this process has been the communications from NHS Blood and Transplant from start to finish. The regular text reminders to remind me of my appointment were welcome yet not too frequent, they had a really friendly tone and when I got into the centre, all of the staff were super-friendly. I'm not particularly afraid of needles, but my veins are (every time anyone goes to take blood from me, my veins tend to retreat like a cat who's just been caught crapping in your garden) and it took some time for them to get the needle in. Once it was plugged-in, it was all go! Tony, the Italian nurse was definitely my favourite - he had to intervene when the first nurse had trouble. It seemed like everywhere he went, he added sparkle to every person he came into contact with.
Clench, clench, clench!
It only took 15 minutes for them to take my pint of blood, and it was so easy. You basically have to make fists, as well as clench your buttocks the entire time to get the flow going... The worst thing about it was the fact that it was an incredibly hot day outside, so I was slightly worried about dehydration - but it was nothing that a pint of squash and a bag of crisps couldn't sort out.
I've also been really impressed with the fact that NHS B&T have been able to track my donation, tell me my blood type and let me know where it's ended up! My blood is now in Watford. They even sent me a little map.
It turns out, my blood type is O+, which means that it's not a rare type, and it can help out most people who need it. It seems fitting that I have a positive blood type. I kinda like that.
If you want to give blood, you can REGISTER HERE to do so. I highly recommend it, because they always need it, and you never know when you might need it too.