Feature: My first time giving blood

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The first time I ever turned up to a blood donation session was more than ten years ago when I was at university. I was unable to donate that day because I had a mouth ulcer. I felt relieved at the time, as the sight of the needles put me off wanting to go ahead with it.

Fast forward to 2014 and I am sitting at The Arena Church in Ilkeston waiting to give blood. The advancement of social media and advertising campaigns under the slogan ‘Do something amazing’ has made the need for donors more apparent than ever. And, as you get older more people you know start getting ill and some have to undergo blood transfusions. I realised I had got to the grand old age of 33 without ever having donated blood, and with the many donor sessions that take place in my area I didn’t really have an excuse.

After registering online and booking my appointment, it was simply a case of filling in a form that came through my door and turning up for my appointment.

After being asked a few questions about my health, and a quick finger prick check to make sure my iron levels were OK I was ready to go.

I wasn’t particularly keen on watching as the nurse put the needle into my arm. I had imagined it would be painful but in fact I barely felt anything. It takes between five and ten minutes to give blood and you are advised to wiggle your fingers and clench your bum to help the blood flow. It seemed to be over in a flash and took just six and a half minutes to fill the pint bag. Afterwards you have to sit and eat biscuits and drink orange squash for 20 minutes before leaving. Something I was happy to do.

At the session where myself and a colleague gave blood for the first time, we were among 135 others doing the same. That’s 135 pints of blood collected in just one day, just in Ilkeston. Imagine how many people that will help.

Maggie Hendry, 65, from Ilkeston told me that this was the 72nd time she had donated blood. She recalls it being very different when she first became a donor to how it is now.

She said: “It was done by the Red Cross then, a man in a white coat would come with a needle that looked like an icing bag to anaesthetise your arm. Then the needle would go in - it felt like a gun. The blood would go into glass bottles, before being loaded into crates. You had a little blue book with a gold heart on the front and would get a gold sticker. The procedure is much more straight forward and comfortable now.

“You never know when your are going to need blood. I had a friend who had a blood transfusion a few weeks ago and it makes you realise how important it is.”

The NHS blood donation service are currently pushing for more people with O negative blood group to donate. To register as a donor log onto blood.co.uk

by Sarah Bould

NHS Blood and Transplant (NHSBT) is a joint England and Wales Special Health Authority. Its remit includes the provision of a reliable, efficient supply of blood and associated services to the NHS in England and North Wales. It is also the organ donor organisation for the UK and is responsible for matching and allocating donated organs

· NHSBT collects 1.8 million units of blood each year from over 23,000 blood donation sessions in more than 3,000 venues

· Only four per cent of the eligible population are active blood donors

· A unit of blood is measured as 470mls (or just under a pint)

· There are four main blood groups – O, A, B and AB. Group O is the most common and therefore the most in demand. A regular supply of blood is vital – red cells last 35 days and platelets only 7 days

· Female whole blood donors can give blood every 16 weeks, while male blood donors must wait 12 weeks between donations. Platelets can be donated every 2 weeks.

In general, as long as you are fit and healthy, weigh over 7 stone 12 lbs (50kg) and are aged between 17 and 66 (up to 70 if you have given blood before) you should be able to give blood. If you are over 70, you need to have given blood in the last two years to continue donating.

Blood is required to treat patients for a whole range of reasons. It is used in accidents and emergency situations, during surgery and in maternity and neonatal care when either mum or baby need blood. It is also used as a treatment for cancer and for blood disorders, such as sickle cell anaemia.

You can register as a donor, find out whether we’ve got a session coming up in your area and book an appointment to donate whenever and wherever you are through www.blood.co.uk or by using our app on your Android, Windows or Apple device. To download an app for your device, search ‘NHSGiveBlood’ in the app store.

· NHSBT’s donor line - 0300 123 23 23 - is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week with all calls charged at the standard local rate, even from mobile phones