I recently went to donate blood. I do tend to get a bit of a bad reaction, which apparently only occurs in a very small percentage of donors. It didn’t go very well for me, but it was worth it to know I could be saving some lives. Also, it helped me identify some of the things that can make the experience better or worse for some people. I hadn’t donated for a long time, so I wasn’t as prepared as I wanted to be. I hope the information I have here can reassure anyone who is considering donating but has reservations.
My first mistake was not getting enough sleep in the days leading up to the donation day. Being well rested is important. I didn’t want to skip my appointment, but I probably should have delayed donating since I wasn’t able to get enough sleep around that time.
It’s recommended to eat something and be well hydrated before donating. I did have a decent breakfast and drink plenty of water ahead of time, but I had taken some medication that morning that tends to make me a bit dehydrated. I think for anyone who hasn’t donated without problems in the past, it’s probably best to go later in the day in most cases. I guess for some people, mornings might be best, but not for me! Not only do I need time to be completely awake, but I also often don’t eat a big breakfast. That day, I ate an omelet burrito that my husband made for me, but it was right before I went. Maybe I should have allowed more time to digest it first.
Many people fare better if they don’t look at their arm and/or the blood while donating, and time goes faster when your attention is on something else. I like to read when I donate, and I did remember to take something with me to read. That helps me keep my mind occupied instead of focusing on the blood donation. It also helps (even for blood work) if I don’t look.
I felt ok until I was almost done donating. I think it didn’t help that the people working there were updating me on how long I had left. I will make sure next time to let them know not to mention anything to me during the process – I do better if I don’t think about it until I’m done. When I was told I was almost done, I started to feel sick. I didn’t want to stop and waste the blood, though, so I made sure to finish. It did only take a few more minutes, but in that short amount of time, I felt overheated, nauseated, and dizzy. I apparently got very pale because the nurse told me I had to stay on there on the table until I got some color back in my lips. They gave me some icy cold wet paper towels for my forehead and the back of my neck, which helped.
Once I was able to get off the donating table, I went over to the snack area. I had some juice, oatmeal raisin cookies, and plenty of water. While I was recovering, I met a man who had also donated. It turns out he was an employee of the hospital who was involved in the donation program. We had a conversation about tips for donating. One thing he mentioned that I hadn’t know about was that it can help to put your knees up and/or flex your leg muscles to raise blood pressure during donation, in order to reduce or eliminate light headedness and other unwanted side effects. Comfortable and non-restrictive clothing is another thing I heard about since my donation. I did have on comfortable clothing, but was wearing a skirt. Next time, I’ll make sure to wear pants so I can put my knees up.
I’ll have to report on how it goes next time, following the tips I found out and mentioned here. Does anyone else have any helpful hints?