On June 14th countries across the globe celebrate World Blood Donor Day to raise awareness for the need of safe blood and to thank blood donors for their lifesaving gifts. Each year the campaign highlights the essential contribution of blood donors, the importance of access to safe blood, as well as encouraging young people to donate to ensure a safe blood supply for the future.
I believe I was in my first year of Sixth Form when we were directed into our school hall to listen to a talk from NHS Blood and Transplant. They went through a presentation detailing why donating blood is so important, and shared stories of individuals who had their lives saved thanks to the selflessness of others.
It struck a chord with me, because my own mum had to have a blood transfusion when bringing my brother into this world and two more when having me. Without the donations of strangers, we could have had the reality of growing up without our wonderful mum – so I made the decision that if someone else was able to give me the gift of a lifetime with my mama, I was going to do the same.
2024 will mark 10 years of donating blood for me, and many people throughout the years have expressed how brave I am and that they couldn’t possibly do the same – let me be clear, as long as you are eligible, you can donate too. It is nowhere near as scary as some may think, and I assure you when you are sat eating a biscuit with a cuppa after your first donation, you will realise how easy it is and undoubtedly get the bug and want to continue to make a difference.
I have been extra lucky in the fact my blood type is O-negative, meaning when I donate, I am what’s known as a First Responder. 8% of the population carry this blood type, however it is the only blood type that can be given to anyone in an emergency. Often nicknamed the ‘universal blood type’, it is vitally important stock levels of O-negative are kept high as it is a necessity in an emergency or when a patient’s blood type is unknown. This is because the O-negative red cells lack the antigens that can trigger a dangerous immune response in patients.
The donation process is simple, fast, and nothing to be afraid of. You will be seated with an information leaflet and asked to drink 500ml of juice or water. Next, they will ask a few questions and test a drop of blood from your finger to check the iron levels, and if you are good to go you will be popped onto your reclinable chair and once you are comfortable, a cuff will be placed onto your arm to maintain a small amount of pressure during your donation.
A needle will be inserted into your arm, and you should not feel any discomfort or pain. You will lay back and may be asked to regularly squeeze your hand, legs and buttocks to ensure proper blood flow, but other than that… it’s time to relax and know you’re doing something amazing!
The atmosphere is peaceful with music playing accompanied by the hum of soft natter, and before you know it your chair is making a happy binging sound – this means you are done and your first 470ml of blood has been donated! The average time for this is between 5-10 minutes, so it really is a fast process you can do on your lunch break.
The needle will be removed, a sterile dressing will be applied, and you just helped save a life! You will be directed to a table where a friendly face will offer you a choice of snacks and drinks. You are encouraged to eat and drink something before you leave, so make the most of it! You can also use the opportunity to book your next appointment.
After all of this, the best part? You receive a text informing you where your blood has gone, and you suddenly get goosebumps realizing that you have truly made a difference to someone’s life. What could be better than that?
If you would like to find out more about how to become a blood donor, you can visit www.blood.co.uk
Alana Lloyd – Jex