Random Act of Kindness – Give Blood / Give Platelets

And now for something completely different… I know, I know this is an e-commerce blog and normal service will be resumed soon I promise, however for me this was too important for me to not write about.

Donate Blood

To me the act of giving blood is one of the top ‘Random Acts of Kindness’ anyone can do as all you have to do is give up a bit of your time and you have the potential to be saving lives.  For a long time I was guilty as I sure a lot am of saying, ‘Yea I’ll look into doing that’ and then never getting around to it.

I had often asked my dad about it as he has been a donor for a long time and he brought home a leaflet on it, I logged online, filled in a quick questionnaire and clicked submit and the NHS were going to send me an information pack.  That was all it took to get the ball rolling.  You can do the same here: http://www.blood.co.uk/

The saddest thing is in England and Wales out of everyone who is eligible to donate, only 4% do so.  Which is why recently you will (hopefully) have heard or seen a lot of TV and radio adverts asking for people to give blood as there is always a shortage on the run up to big events, this time it will be the Olympics.

So let me tell you my story of donating, as well as showing you some pictures I took on Tuesday, and I will be 100% honest about the whole process.

Background Info

My dad has been a blood donor for a long time, and after a particular donation he was asked by the nurse at the blood center if she could take an extra sample of blood to see if he was eligible to donate Platelets.  For anyone who doesn’t know Platelets are the part of the blood that help you heal cuts and clot your blood etc.  For people who are going through chemotherapy or have leukemia it is very common for them to need platelets through their treatment as they are not producing enough of their own.

My dad’s results came back and he had a really high platelet count and ever since then he has been donating platelets instead of blood as you cannot donate both, and as it is much harder to find donors for Platelets he was encouraged to carry on doing that.

About 2 Months Ago

Enter inquisitive Dave after seeing dad with the familiar plaster on his arm.  I began asking the questions that I hadn’t really thought of asking him before, what happens?, does it hurt? what happens to your Platelets?  After all of his answers came back and seemed both reasonable and like it was all part of a worthy cause, that maybe I should be tested for my Platelet count as surely Genetics had a part to play in this right?

So the next time my dad had an appointment to donate Platelets I went with him to have a blood test so they could find out what blood type I was (As I’d never had cause to find this out before now) as well as how many Platelets were in my blood, to see if I too was part of this Elite Platelet Club.

When I got there this really happy lady gave me a questionnaire and I began to fill it out, confidently ticking No to most of the boxes, then I came to the question “Have you or anyone in your family ever been diagnosed with CJD” hmmmm, it sounded familiar but I had no idea what this was.  Best make sure and ask then yea?

Me: “Excuse me, what’s CJD?”

Nurse: “That would be what is more commonly known as Mad Cow Disease”

Me *Chuckles to self* “Ok Thank You”

At this point I stopped myself from saying something along the lines of “Well there are a few mad cow’s in the family”  and thought better of it.

Anyway it looks like I got all the questions right on the questionnaire as I then got asked to go into this small room to have the blood test.  This consisted of the nurse putting a catheter thingy into my arm and drawing blood into 4 test tubes all to go off for analysis.  Now I said I would be honest here and when she started to draw the blood I did feel a little bit light headed.  I can only presume this is because I had never had this done before and my body freaked out a bit, I have had loads of injections in the past and needles don’t bother me so that’s all I can put it down to, after a few minutes I felt back to normal.

About a week later I received a phone call from the blood center in Manchester and they confirmed my blood type and also that I had a high platelet count and that they would like me to book an appointment to give my first donation.

To find out more about Platelets, what they do, why they are needed and to see if you can help too, check out the website here: http://www.blood.co.uk/platelets

3 Weeks ago

Due to work commitments and the opening hours of the blood center this was the first available time I could make it down to actually donate.  Now as anyone who actually knows me will appreciate is, I am a very laid back optimistic person, I don’t have any known phobias and I don’t get extreme emotions like mad happiness or intense anger, I’m pretty level most of the time.  The last time I was nervous was when I was sitting my Mod 2 Motorbike license (I still don’t know why either, it’s not like you get executed if you fail) that was until the night before I was due to give platelets.  I had this real ‘fear’ that I was going to get lightheaded again and pass out and make a right fool of myself in front of a room full of people…needless to say i’d be in the right place at least.

So fast forward through the day I was due to donate as nothing interesting happened, the nerves were still there somewhere but forced to the back of my mind as work kept my mind busy.  O…I lie, this day as advised by the nurse at the donor centre, I actually had breakfast as they told me not to skip meals and make sure I was eating and drinking enough.  I usually sacrifice breakfast for sleep…yes I know most important meal of the day etcs. *slaps wrist*

I walk through the donor centre door and am greeted by the cheeriest person I had seen all day, I quietly think to myself she must get some sadistic pleasure from stabbing people in the arm…in reality she is probably just a very nice person.  I fill in the familiar questionnaire, this time a little more convincingly ticking the CJD question.  I passed the test again and got taken to a small room, where they do a quick test top make sure that your iron levels in your blood are sufficient enough to donate.  The nurse using SAS style mind control and stealth, distracts me and then with such guile stabs my finger with the smallest needle known to man and collects a tiny amount of my blood.  She then drops this in to a ready and waiting test tube filled with blue liquid and I watch my blood sink through the liquid….this is good, as my blood is clearly heavy… as it sinks so must have lots of iron?!? (This was the ultra complicated scientific explanation I drew from this.)  I ran this past the nurse and she gave me a re-assuring sympathy nod and smile so I knew I was along the right lines.  2 tests passed…I was on a roll.

The time had arrived for it to get serious.  I was still nervous but doing that incredibly manly thing men do, where they think they are masking such emotions with an incredible amount of bravado.  Looking back at this now, I bet I was more see through than Casper giving away my true feelings.  As this was my first time I get an introductory chat with the head nurse there, a fantastic guy called Eric who for the rest of my time there properly took me under his wing (even if he did support the blue half of Manchester)  Me and Eric chatted for about 10 minutes he took me through the whole process of donation, took me over to a machine and explained how every part of it worked and constantly re-assured me that it was impossible for me to come to any harm whilst doing this except in his words “Unless you do something stupid like bend your arm whilst you are donating”  Needless I didn’t need telling twice not to do this.  He then went on to tell me what happens to the platelets once I am done, told me what type of people and what type of diseases need Platelet transfusions.  He finished off by telling me that within the next 2 days my Platelets that I have donated will have saved someones life.  It was at this point that I had my own little mini epiphany…I was worried about feeling a bit light headed and yet people were waiting on Platelets to have potentially life saving operations.  Something I was naturally good at and had no use for could save someones life.  I was sold.  I knew this was something I was going to keep on doing whether I went light headed, passed out or whatever.

*To read some stories that sold this to me in the first place check this out*

It was time, I get taken over to my bed (Like a dentist chair) and the nurse disinfects my whole arm, and takes all of ‘the things’ needed out of sealed packages and lays them out on the table to the right of me where the centrifuge and computer screen are.  They now start wiring up tubes and stuff to the machine and put one of those blood pressure like strap things on the top of my arm.  Sorry for he vagueness here but I genuinely didn’t know what they were doing as I didn’t need to know they were prepping the machine and me is what it boils down to.  Then came the best part.  The needle.  Believe me now when I say this, and remember I have promised to be 100% honest.  Everything I heard about how big the needle is….is lies, it is not massive, not like a knitting needle going in your arm or anything like that.  The nurse spots the victim (vein) and in one utterly fluid motion inserts the needle and catheter and in seconds has it taped in place on my arm.  Now I wont lie, it isnt painless, but it really is just like a slight scratch on the arm.  I get worse toy fighting with the dog.  I lay there knowing now that the worst bit was over (Little did I know, I’ll come to the worst bit at the end)

They programme the machine and away It goes, as I watch the red liquid travel away from my arm down this snake of tubing.  Now when donating platelets it is funny because you actually get some blood back after they have taken the ‘good stuff’ out.  The machine seems to work in 3 minute cycles where it takes the blood and Platelets, and then returns to you the blood it has used.  You don’t feel anything throughout the whole process.  I was on the machine for just over 45 minutes as they took a double dose.  When you have finished it is equally pain free, they gently pull out the equipment and ask you to hold a piece of cotton wool to your arm, and keep the pressure on to stem any excess bleeding, they then tape a small bandage over it to let it heal.

That was it…ordeal over, but the think was there was no ordeal, all I had done is sat in a chair given up just over an hour of my time, watched some TV and had a drink.  The best thing was leaving knowing I had done something to help someone in a worse situation than myself.

The best thing would have obviously been the free WiFi…but because i’m right handed and the Veins in my right arm are excellent this mean I had to try and manipulate my phone with all the dexterity that Abu Hamza would have been able to muster.

So I hope I have managed to answer any questions about the process, and hopefully inspired you a little bit to if not go and donate, at least look into it and consider it.  You never know when you may find yourself in a situation where you or a loved one are relying on an anonymous donor, so why not be that lifeline for someone?  However if you don’t like needles and pass out easily…it probably isn’t for you.  But please at least click the links in this post and spread the word about donating blood and platelets.  If you have any questions feel free to ask in the comments below and I will answer them.

Below for those with any curiosity I have put in some pics that I took (Left handed I hasten to add, so apologies for the poor work there) of me whilst I was donating.  If you don’t like needles or the sight of blood, then don’t bother looking 😉

O and I nearly forgot to tell you what the worst pain was during the donating process.  Without a shadow of a doubt, nothing even came close to the pain…when i had to take the bandage of my arm the next day, it was super sticky, I have hairy arms, and I have a male pain threshold….I nearly cried 😀

Enjoy the pics

Dave

Centrifuge and Computer

The (not so) Dreaded Needle

Platelet collection

Look at the concentration needed to operate my phone left handed

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