Monday, September 03, 2012

A Positive Experience

It was on a lazy Sunday that it hit me that I should do something that I've always wanted to do--donate blood. I hurriedly searched on Google on my smartphone to look for a number to book an appointment but to my dismay, the next day was when it would be close. I contacted Mary telling her of my intention and she booked an appointment for me on Tuesday, 26th of June, 2012--the day she was donating too.  

Mary P.is the Community Development Coordinator for Canadian Blood Services, she does a lot of important and crucial tasks such as recruiting donors, raise awareness and educate the public on blood donation specifically in Richmond Hill. I met Mary through Biology class as she frequently visits high schools to conduct blood typing which is very exciting as many people don't know what his/her own blood type is.

It was thrilling and horrifying but more towards the impatient excitement side. I've ALWAYS wanted to donate blood. I remember when I was 12 and there would be blood donation drives in my church but I was not allowed to donate because of my age. I had to be at least sixteen. But now, I'm 19 and I don't even need a parental permission slip, suckas! As that was 7 years ago, now the minimum age to donate is 17.

Okay, so I was a little late in meeting Mary at the Blood Donor Clinic, it was supposed to be 4 o'clock but I arrived six minutes late since I was lost inside Hillcrest Mall. The clinic is located right next to Boat House or you can directly enter after parking at Entrance #3.

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Since I'm a "donor virgin", I had to register myself. It was quick, just the usual personal information you'd have to provide when applying for a membership card or what not. The receptionist was very nice and friendly.
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Right after, they give you a package with a double-sided informative pamphlet to read. You then proceed to the first station to have your iron level checked and state whether you are fine with donating even after having read the pamphlet. Here's a nice 2-minute-and-19-second video of Mary getting checked.



It gives advice, warning and information on what blood diseases your blood will be tested for. As Canadian Blood Services takes great responsibility in ensuring patients/recipients of donated blood will not contract diseases, they heavily remind the donor not to give their blood if his or her blood's state was compromised.
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It was my turn and as you can see, I was worked up and very curious about how it was going to be.
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A first-person view, it's pretty cool to talk to someone with a plastic screen in front of the other person's face. Verbal communication was not hindered because of it.
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I double-checked the information I gave and there was one error about my address, the postal code. The lady said that she liked my name and I told that it meant life in Greek. She then inquired if I was Greek and I gave a stunned expression. No one had ever asked me that before. LOL, there's a first time for every(strange)questionthing!
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IT WAS TIME... TIME TO prick my finger. ="( That was pretty scary, I remember freaking out when Mary was going to prick my finger when she conducted a blood type test in my biology class last semester year. I scrunched up my face in anticipation. Lo' and behold, I could feel the sharp tiny pain on my finger for a microsecond. But yes, I was very dramatic.
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My iron levels were fine but I was a bad, bad donor. I actually overslept and had just enough time to drink a glass and a half of water, pop in an iron pill (since I am iron deficient) and change from my PJs to rush off to Hillcrest Mall. I didn't have lunch or any food at all beforehand. Mary was cautious and told me that I should quickly eat something at the food court. So off I went with my water bottle, wallet and camera.
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I was obsessed with Mama Burgers by A&W that week. I had two of those a couple of days before, they taste good and they're cheap! Mama Burgers are only $1.50 each. Plus I needed to eat something that was fast and easy, a Subway sandwich would have taken too long.
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I was beginning to feel a slight ache at my ring finger's joint but it wasn't terrible. Also, a warning to people who leave their valuables on the table: Don't put it on the edge of the table. I saw a 30-ish, Chinese man with a small backpack who wasn't shopping or anything but walking around back and forth and I caught him eyeing my wallet. I stared at him for three seconds before he walked away, he was a meter away from the table.
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I wasn't feeling hungry so I chomped down one burger and had another gulp of water from which the A&W cashier kindly refilled my water bottle since there are NO water fountains in Hillcrest Mall! I walked back to the Blood Donor Clinic and found Mary halfway through her blood donation. :D
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It looks complicated with all the tape and colourful clips but it's just one long curly tube with two endings, one going to the main pouch that collects 450ml of blood and the other to a small separate bag for testing.
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Mary's almost done with her donation! The bag of blood is placed on a slanting machine that moves up and down like a seesaw to prevent it from coagulating since the time it takes to collect blood varies from person to person.
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For Mary, it was a record four minutes and forty-six seconds! Whoa.
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The nurse pressed down a cotton pad on where the needle was inserted and told Mary to apply pressure on it for 5 minutes which was timed on the timer as well.
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There's a table where there are two boxes of medical supplies and in this one there are needles, pincers, alcohol wipes, swab sticks, disposable gloves and plasters.
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Even the bandaging requires the upmost hygienic standard of wearing gloves! The nurses never really touch the tiny spot either. They keep the cotton pad flat. 
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Then apply plaster over it.
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And wrap a stringy/straw-like bandage over it which seals itself by contracting the fiber which locks with the other surface as opposed to an adhesive bandage. After a while it hurts your skin since it sticks to it and despite pulling it off, it clings back on.
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But it's all worth it since it's so pretty and you only need to keep it on for an hour! The bandage reads "GIVE BLOOD" which  is interesting since I'd expect it to be "Just Gave Blood". But good stuff, it's encouragement to other people to donate their blood as well if they were to inquire about the tape on your arm.
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Mary went on to have a bit of refreshments (which are free, by the way!) while I continued my donation process.
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Every time you donate, no matter how many times you have donated, you have to complete a questionnaire. It is the same one every single time unless they were updated.
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The questions ask about your health, travelling and sexual history. If you are uncomfortable with answering personal questions and refuse to disclose, then you will not be able to donate your blood. All the questions are meant to protect blood recipients from potential diseases you may carry if you have done any of the compromising activities.
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A nurse sat me down on one their comfy red lazy chairs at the Blood Donor Clinic and confirmed if I've read the pamphlet, I was all smiles because I was very nervous. I have a HUGE fear of needles :S
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I had to close my eyes and thank God, Mary was right beside the whole time, I tightly gripped onto her hand when the nurse was inserting the needle into my left-hand vein. Blood soon gushed into the tubes, it was a dark, dark maroon. To improve blood movement, the nurse scrunched up some paper towel and asked me to constantly roll and squeeze it.
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The little pouch, separate from the main one on the rocking machine, collects 5ml of blood which is used to test if your blood contains any diseases but many viruses in its early stages aren't detectable which is why answering the questionnaire truthfully is critical.
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I was about 5 minutes into my blood transferal when this picture was taken, clearly, I was nowhere near where Mary was. She was done within 5 minutes, I only filled one-quarter of the bag. The nurse wasn't pleased with the progression and adjusted my arm in different positions, I wasn't squeezing the paper towel ball because my muscles were tender, I think she put the needle in an awkward place where I didn't feel comfortable in moving my arm or hand at all. Perhaps it was because it was my first time I was too nervous to do anything.
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Mary chatted with me and frequently asked if I was doing alright and if I felt okay. Some people feel dizzy and/or nauseous and the aftermath sometimes include bruising, swelling, bleeding and rashes around the needle spot. I felt perfectly fine and normal, I'm so grateful to have had Mary accompany through this first-time experience since she is a very experienced donor. In the video, she said it was her 19th time donating!
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I was finally done, it took a much longer time than anticipated. Mary said the transferal takes anywhere from between 5 and 20 minutes; 5 and below are usually by prepared, experienced donors. Drinking lots of water is key to make the blood flow faster. Mary expected that I'd be done at around 10 minutes as she'd never seen anyone take close to 20 minutes but you know how long it took me? Eighteen minutes! I'm the exception, I'm always the exception.  -_______-
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It was cool to receive this stress ball in the shape of a blood droplet.
If you have any questions, there are many answered FAQs on blood.ca (English version).
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It was a profound moment, I felt I had accomplish something. Like I had given birth to a baby, all the anxiety that comes with labour to have produced a beautiful bag of blood that could save up to three people. A pity I didn't get to hug it before it was taken away.
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 Once the bag of blood reaches CBS' laboratory, it is separated into its three main components: red blood cells, plasma and platelets. Patients either receive direct blood tranfusions or blood products made from your blood. Depending on the type of product, burn victims need plasma, cancer patients need platelets and car accident victims need red blood cells. 
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So I urge you, give blood! Don't adulterate it with alcohol or smoke residue. You're perfectly well and healthy and could save other people's lives. Blood is in such a high demand, I was told by a lady over the phone from CBS, that your bag of blood tend to be used within 5 days of donating it. The shelf life for platelets is 5 days while for red blood cells, it is 42 days.
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A friendly man tending the table of refreshments gave me a pin. Look at how smug I was, I was feeling pretty cool and officialized (and very appreciated, of course).
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I took a quick webcam shot of the pin. It's beautiful! You've got the Canadian maple leaf on it with the number 1 in it.
I am Numba Wan!  


I really loved the goodies. I received First Time Donor stickers, a stress ball and a pretty pin! It was a pleasure to chat with such warm and kind souls at the table after donating blood. They would also share their stories of donating blood and their motivation behind it which is often very heroic and touching.
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I helped myself to a bag of tidbits and listened in on the conversation while updating my Twitter and Facebook.
 
All went well and I was advised not to do anything strenuous for the next 6-8 hours. I wanted to donate my blood in June but as I had a dragon boat competition four days before my planned appointment, I canceled it just in case it would hinder my best performance. A couple of days later, I noticed bruises on my right arm.
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It was weird as I didn't remember hitting those spots but then I realized it was near where the needle was pierced. The bruises were barely visible and did not hurt and it disappeared after three days.
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All in all, it was an exciting and pleasant experience. I wore the bandage around my arm with pride, it wasn't from an embarrassing cooking mishap but a voluntarily act of saving lives with minimal risk.
 
 
 
Guess what my blood type is. Do you know yours?
 

3 comments:

Sue Me said...

Yay!! You donated blood!! Lol.. And the adult me has yet to donate any and I am scared of needles too. Lol..

Looks fun donating blood over there eh?

Zoe Yve said...

Hi Su!!

Yeah, it was a plausible moment. I was very happy I did it, yes, they treat donors well. I don't know how they do it in Malaysia but I heard they give cookies too.

My church-mate had a very bad arm infection, however. His elbow swelled up twice its size. That freaked me out.. so I always beg nurses to be gentle when piercing the needle. Some nurses are careless or inconsiderate.

But you should definitely do it! It's healthy to make new blood and it'll save lives.

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