Perth * Morley *Joondalup * South Fremantle* Cannington * Midland * Rockingham * Bunbury * Albany
Donating blood was something I hadn't done before. I'm not really sure why. Perhaps it was just that I felt a little unsure about the whole process. After hearing a story on TV about a young boy who was in desperate need of a bone marrow transplant and was searching for a match, I decided it was time to give blood and get myself on the bone marrow register at the same time.
This is my account of my first blood donation experience.I hope that if you haven't given blood before it provides you with some information about the process to make you feel comfortable enough to make that phone call and book yourself in to take part in this rewarding and very worthy act that gives the gift of not just life but lives.
The First Steps - Making An Appointment
You can book an appointment at one of Perth's many blood donation centres located in Perth City, Joondalup, Morley, South Fremantle, Cannington, Midland, Rockingham, Bunbury or Albany online, however you can only book minimum 3 days in advance.
If you are reading this and you are thinking "I want to get this done, like tomorrow", then I recommend you give The Australia Red Cross Blood Service a call on 13 14 95. I had trouble booking a time at the centre closest to me (Morley) online and found making the call a lot easier.
On the other end of the line was a very friendly person who thanked me for my decision to donate blood and asked me a series of screening questions to ensure I was firstly eligible to donate blood. He also confirmed that I was going to have a bone marrow sample taken so I could be placed on the bone marrow donation register. This only took a few minutes and the appointment was made at a time suitable for me, for the next day.
Once your appointment is booked they will give you a few instuctions to make sure you are ready to give blood at the time of your appointment, including ensuring that you have had enough water to drink, and some information about what you should eat before your appointment.
Arriving at the Blood Donation Centre
There was plenty of free designated parking at the Morley centre when I arrived. (Note: if you give blood in the city you can get your parking ticket validate so you don't have to pay for parking. See more information on the Australian Red Cross Blood Service website, linked below). When I entered the centre I was given a form to complete which is a bit of an extension on the questions asked over the phone, to confirm my eligibility to donate blood. This only took me a few minutes and I handed the forms back to the front desk and sat in the waiting area.
Within a minute or two I was seen by someone who stepped through my answers to the questionaire. She also checked by blood pressure and conducted a finger prick test to check my iron levels. The prick test was probably the most painful bit of the whole thing and even that wasn't that bad.
Once my questionaire was reviewed, my blood pressure and iron levels confirmed as being within range I was seen to the blood donation area.
When it comes to giving your donation you are seated in a very comfy chair and laid back into an even comfier position. I was lucky the Olympics where on at the time so I just laid back and enjoyed having my feet up and watching some of the events. The whole time the process is explained to you and you are constantly asked how you are feeling.
The whole process, while it is efficient, is definitely not rushed. You are treated with the upmost respect, understanding and consideration and it is all done at a pace that is comfortable for you. You can let a staff member know if you feel worried or uncomfortable at any time.
Having the needle put in, just feels like a gentle prick. You are asked to squeeze a ball while your donation is being taken. If squeezing the ball is a little difficult or feels uncomfortable you can just roll the ball around in your palm.
The taking of blood only takes about 6-7 minutes once the needle is in.. This was the most relaxing 6 minutes of my whole week. I did a bit of reading of a pamphlet about all the different uses for blood, and learned about plasma donation. I had a bit of a chat with the staff member taking my blood about plasma donation, and was suprised at how useful my AB+ plasma was, with universal applications for all blood types (only 3% of the population have AB+ blood - aren't I special!). You may be interested to know that blood isn't just used for transfusions its also used for burns treatments and is made into 22 different medical treatments some of which are used to treat cancer.
Once your donation is complete, you are once again asked how you are going. If need be they will bring you a orange juice or smoothie. There is certainly no hurry to get up and move onto the dining area if you need a bit of time to settle yourself after your donation.
When you are feeling ok you are again thanked for coming down and making your donation and welcomed to enjoy a complimentary snack and drink in the dining area. The whole process from arriving to completing the blood donation and sample for the bone marrow test was about an hour. My next appointment will be a little shorter with not so much paper work to do on subsequent visits.
After Your Donation
Once the deed is done you can take a seat in the dining area and enjoy a complimentary drink and a snack to rehydrate and nourish yourself. Feel free to stay a little while and relax, or if you want to head off you can grab a bottle of water and "The Best. Biscuit. Ever" to go (and it really is the Best Biscuit Ever - so delicious).
The whole process was amazingly efficient and everyone I dealt with was super friendly. Being my first time there was a little more paperwork than I can expect at subsequent appointments, but wait times where minimal and I was moved through the whole process very efficiently, without being rushed. It felt so amazing to have done something so important that would literally save multiple lives. Most of all it wasn't scary at all, in fact it was the most relaxing thing I had done in a long time.
The Follow Up
I have to admit I felt a little flat and lacked energy for a couple of days after the donation but this soon passed. It was pretty awesome to receive this text message a couple of weeks later and to also receive a thankyou letter in the mail with information about my blood type and it's uses, and most of all reminding me that I had alreay saved lives. With the letter was also my blood donor card, which I can used next time to avoid some of the paperwork.
If you haven't given blood before I urge to make that call and firstly find out if you are eligible. If you are eligible book it in and get it done. If you are still not sure, why don't you call a friend and do it together. Or take the one you love along, it's actually a pretty romantic thing to do together don't you think? It makes a great alternative to a coffee date and you get your coffee and snack free!
My next visit will be for plasma donation - so stay tuned for Chapter 2 as we let you know what happens during the process.
For more information on blood donation and for booking information go to www.donateblood.com.au