A little drop of the good stuff

Cuttsy+Cuttsy | 12 June 2017

Normally when I refer to a drop of the good stuff, I’m talking about gin. However, in a bid to remain unpredictable, this time I’m talking about blood. Why? Because June 14th 2017 marks another world blood donor day and here at Cuttsy+Cuttsy we wanted to do our bit to help promote the cause.

Why? Every day 6,000 blood donations are needed to treat patients in need across England alone.1 In the UK, blood donors have to be aged between 17 and 65 years of age, but with half of current donors aged over 45, new younger donors are desperately needed.1

How is donated blood used?

Donated blood is used to save lives. In 2014, according to hospital usage, donated blood was used in the following ways:2

  • 67% was used to treat conditions such as cancer and blood disorders
  • 27% was used in surgery, including heart surgery and emergency surgery
  • 6% was used to treat blood loss in new mums after giving birth

So, to do our bit to help encourage new donors to sign up, we’ve written a quick guide to help people who are thinking of donating for the first time understand what to expect.

What’s good to know beforehand?

So you’re thinking of giving blood? First off, it’s important to know that at peak times, blood donation centres can be busy. For this reason it’s a good idea to take a book, newspaper, digeridoo, or whatever keeps you out of trouble. How long will it take? Well, it varies. Sometimes you’re in and out in half an hour, sometimes it’s over an hour. You can book an appointment though if you’re in a hurry.

Naturally, you’ll want to look fabulous the first time you give blood. But when you’re planning your outfit it’s a good idea to wear something that enables easy access to the crook of your arm, like a shirt than can be rolled up, or a short-sleeved top.

How do you find out if you’re eligible to donate?

Once you’ve arrived you’ll be asked to fill in a questionnaire. Common eligibility questions are based around medications you may be taking, illnesses you may have, if you have recently had a tattoo, travelled abroad and if you have ever received any blood, blood products or organs yourself. As a new donor your first questionnaire might be a little longer than on future visits. However, once you’ve chatted through your form with one of the healthcare professionals and been given the all-clear, you’re ready for the finger prick test!

The next part of the process is checking the levels of iron in your blood. When your number is called a healthcare professional will swab your finger with alcohol, and prick it with a sterile needle. A little tube will be used to suck up a drop of blood and drop it into a vial of copper sulphate solution. If the blood drop sinks within the time limit, you’re good to donate. Then you get a plaster on your finger and a pat on the back for being brave.

What happens when they take my blood?

After a few minutes where you can do exactly as you want, so long as it mostly involves sitting quietly on a chair and remaining fully clothed, you will be called to a free bed. A healthcare professional will put a cuff round the top of your arm to make the blood vessels in your lower arm nice and plump, swab the crook of your arm to sterilise it, and insert a needle attached to an empty blood bag. Your job now is to fill the bag. If you’re right-handed they’ll usually take from your left-arm, and vise-versa. You simply lie back and think of England, Scotland, Wales, Ireland or Northern Ireland or wherever floats your boat… If you’re lucky, you may also be given an underwhelming plastic rod to roll about in your hand. This is to keep your fingers moving and help push the blood out of your arm into the bag.

Once your blood bag is full, your healthcare professional will carefully remove the needle, and stick a bit of cotton wool over the injection site using a plaster. Then, when you’re ready, you can get up and head off to get a free cup of tea and a biscuit. If you’re not a tea drinker, or prefer your cup of tea to be made to exacting standards like me, don’t panic! They usually have orange squash. There is no gin though – I’ve asked.

What do I get out of it (apart from a free biscuit and terrible cup of tea)?
When your donation has been sent to a hospital for use, you receive a text telling you where it’s gone. So, while you may not personally get anything out of giving blood, you can be sure that that the gift you’ve given has made a very big difference to someone else in their time of need, and that you’re, quite literally, a lifesaver. For me that’s a good feeling.

You can book an appointment to give blood through the link below