By Justine Stella
Did you know that every time you donate blood, you save three lives? I didn’t until I walked into an Australian Red Cross Blood Service donor centre for the first time. It only takes about an hour to save three people.
Actually donating blood takes less than fifteen minutes. The rest of the time you’re at the donor centre is dedicated to the pre-donation interview and the post-donation snacks.
To begin, you fill in a short questionnaire. Your answers are all confidential—they just make sure that you’re healthy and fit to donate. Follow this link to see what kind of questions you’ll see. I was relieved that I didn’t have to write down a list of every vaccination I’ve ever had or provide a written family medical history (TV had poorly prepared me).
Then it’s time for your pre-donation interview. For your first time donating, the staff member will ask a series of questions to briefly gauge your medical history. The eligibility test online doesn’t cover everything, so at this interview, the staff member asks about other aspects of your health: previous operations, general health, and previous travel. Then they take your blood pressure and check your haemoglobin with a quick finger-prick. For your subsequent donations, this interview is basically just a check-in to see if everything went alright with your last donation and if anything has changed with your health since then.
Then to the donation seat. A staff member will make sure you’re comfortable and then introduce you to the donation equipment. The bag that your donation will fill is much smaller than TV will have you believe—more like the size of a small pencil case than an iPad. Actually donating is very easy. This link here details all of the ways you are kept safe during your donation. The most uncomfortable part of is really the sticky tape that holds the needle in place—this is not a place accustomed to tape.
After you finish donating, you stay seated in the chair for a little while and have a drink. Then you get to visit the snack station to refuel.
Side Effects Myths Debunked
Unfortunately, the possible side effects of donating blood tend to be exaggerated and can lead to people developing fears of donating. It’s true that occasionally the crook of your elbow where the needle was inserted will bruise after your donation. This happened to me after my second donation, but the bruise was actually less tender and sore than a bruise from smacking my knee against a table. It’s also possible that once in a while a donor will experience some dizziness or nausea after donating. In this case, the best thing to do is to talk to the staff in the donor centre and make sure you sit, eat, and drink after your donation, and the effects will pass quickly.
The most effective way to prevent yourself from experiencing any of these side effects is to drink lots of water prior to your donation, eat a healthy and balanced meal before and after donating, and get a good night’s rest the night before. This link gives you some extra tips if you’re a little worried.
Why it Matters
In every three Australians, one will need blood at some point in their lives (Australian Red Cross Blood Service 2019e). This is a large number of people, but we currently do not have enough donors. Only one in thirty Australians donates blood (Australian Red Cross Blood Service 2019e). The shelf life of donated blood is less than two months, making it impossible to stockpile blood (Australian Red Cross Blood Service 2019e). So, we need you. You can be a hero too.
If You Can’t Donate
If you are ineligible to donate for any reason, there are other ways you can help. My partner was able to donate twice but, at his third appointment, the staff member could not find a viable vein, and thus he was deemed no longer able to donate for his safety, but he’s talking to his team of workmates to let them know how important it is. I recently sustained a head injury, and a long recovery is anticipated. I have been asked not to donate for my safety, so I’m reaching out to you here to ask you to try. Sometimes willing and healthy donors are unable to donate again for reasons like these, and this means we need to help spread the word to encourage more people to become donors. If you cannot donate yourself, encourage your friends and family to do so. Talk to your colleagues about how important it is. Share information with your social media groups. All it takes is one hour to save three people.
If you make an appointment and get partway through your donation and then become unable to proceed, don’t beat yourself up. The important thing is that you tried. We need more people to try.
You don’t need to have superpowers to be a hero. You just need a spare hour.
Visit https://www.donateblood.com.au today to book an appointment. You will not regret it, I promise.
Australian Red Cross Blood Service 2019a, Donor questionnaire, Australian Red Cross Blood Service, retrieved 21 April 2019, <http://www.donateblood.com.au/sites/default/files/DonorQuestionnaire_Jan2016_SAMPLE.pdf>.
———— 2019b, Donor safety, Australian Red Cross Blood Service, retrieved 21 April 2019, <https://www.donateblood.com.au/learn/donor-safety>.
———— 2019c, Eligibility, Australian Red Cross Blood Service, retrieved 21 April 2019, <www.donateblood.com.au/eligibility>.
———— 2019d, Home page, Australian Red Cross Blood Service, retrieved 21 April 2019, <https://www.donateblood.com.au/>.
———— 2019e, Welcome, Australian Red Cross Blood Service, retrieved 21 April 2019, <https://www.donateblood.com.au/welcome>.