A Guide to Giving Blood (Before Proceeding to Pass Out)

They vant to suck your blawhd!

For a good cause, of course.

Red Cross was on campus this week to collect the blood of unwilling victims students, faculty, and anyone unfortunate enough to be in the area. A pint of blood is all they ask for (unless you’re a super human, then they’ll ask for double the blood – or even your precious plasma). A pint can save three lives, they propagandize. Well, you got nothing better to do – I know I don’t – so let’s donate some hematocytes!

Let’s play a game called “Spot the Error(s)”:

Here is how I prepared to donate:

  1. Ate lots of iron-rich foods, especially eggs. I love me some egg sandwiches in the morning.
  2. Drank at least a cup more of water each day.
  3. Went to sleep between midnight and 4 a.m.

On the day of the appointment:

  1. Woke up (9:30 am). Drank a tall glass of water.
  2. Had a bowl of cereal (10:00 am).
  3. Went to class (12:00 pm).
  4. Waited around, drank water (2:00 pm)
  5. Appointment check-in (2:15 pm)

Yeah, you know where this is going.

Now, if you’ve ever given blood, you know that it never runs on time. So while I checked in at 2:15 for a 2:30 appointment, I was not seen in for the preliminary questioning and testing for at least half an hour. Blood pressure test, prick your finger for a hemoglobin test (blood iron content), answer a few dozen questions concerning your health and the safety of your blood, etc. This process took another 20 or so minutes. By the time I was seated, strapped, and stabbed in the arm with the needle, it was perhaps 3:30 or 3:45. (So keep in mind to block off a good couple hours in your schedule if you plan on donating blood).

The bloody ritual went smoothly, taking about 10-15 minutes. I read while occasionally glancing over at the solid stream of red running from my arm into the pint-sized bag below. A fascinating experience thinking about all of this organic matter from my body being transported via a clear plastic tube into a baggy. An out-of-body experience.

Wham, bam, thank you, ma’am. The doctor dude clamped off the tube when the bag was full and proceeded to extract a little more blood into five separate vials. I’m pretty sure they use those samples to test my blood and ensure it’s clean and usable.

It was not until he started filling the fifth vial that I felt the shift in my head.

My skull around the temples began to throb slowly, adding and relieving pressure like a bellows device. A drowsiness descended from the top of my head like a veil, slowly sliding its way down behind my face. I remember furrowing my brow, concentrating on this series of sensations. I do no remember losing consciousness.

As if there hadn’t been a break in consciousness, the next memory I have is of several voices saying my name in unison. It felt like a dream. I can’t remember how long I had had my eyes open. I can’t remember how long I had been staring at the semi-circle of faces, thinking it was only a dream. How comical my waking reaction must have been once I realized I was awake and that the semi-circle was in fact real. I was lying prostrate now. Someone had placed a cold, wet paper towel on my forehead and on my neck. Even when I woke up, I hadn’t realized what had happened. (Yes, I was very slow to piece it all together). My head felt foggy, as if I had been woken up in the middle of a dream – and really, I had – even though I likely wasn’t unconsciousness for more than a minute.

As I was still lying down, an attendant bandaged my arm and instructed me to drink lots of water and refrain from any strenuous activity. She pushed my seat back up at an angle and advised me to stay for a couple minutes before getting up. I still wasn’t completely sure what had happened. Really, it felt like there had been no break of consciousness at all. After I waited and decided that I felt fine, I slowly rose to a ninety degree angle and equally slowly shifted my legs over the edge of the seat. I waited for a minute and as I didn’t feel light-headed, I got down and grabbed my things. A volunteer came over and escorted me over to the recovery station.

“Did I pass out?” I asked lightly.

“Yes.” Her reply was nonchalant, matter-of-fact actually. I chuckled a little and probably looked slightly perplexed.

Keebler snacks, Quaker bars, juices, and several other sugary snacks were available. I took one of each, quickly devouring the mini chocolate Keebler cookies. However, it wasn’t all over yet! As I was working on a nut bar, the throbbing feeling came back. A tiny pang of nausea nudged at the pit of my stomach and I became worried that I might fall out of my chair or vomit. The feeling was slightly different this time. It was incredible. Imagine a large syringe sucking the life right out of you. It begins at the top of your head again and slowly drains you down, down, down. In a cartoon, you’d clearly see illustrated the liquid of your life force being emptied from your body, leaving an empty space in your head as your strength and life evacuated your skull. Gray splotches emerged on the surface of my vision spreading outward until all I could see – was nothing.

It was the most curious feeling. As I was still conscious and not quite as nauseous as I had feared, I oddly didn’t panic. I simply sat there with my eyes open, blind, sitting very very still so that I would not fall.

“[My name]? How are you feeling?”

“I’m… a little light-headed,” I said quietly. Or at least, I think I said this out loud. The way the woman reacted, by the sound of her voice, it didn’t seem like she heard me. So perhaps I didn’t actually say it.

They urged me to move to another seat they had wheeled for me. She told me to turn and sit down. As I couldn’t see, I didn’t move and only made a feeble attempt to turn to the left. It was in fact on my right. I felt two hands gently lift my under my armpits. As I rose, the blackness turned back to gray and the splotches gradually dissolved. Phew, I had my sight back. They wheeled me behind a little screened off area, where they applied new paper towels to my forehead and neck and gave me an apple juice. I lay there for about 15 minutes, I think, almost dozing off (remember how little I slept the previous night/morning). Finally, as I was feeling better and feeling pressured since my shift at work started at 5:00 and it was currently about 4:30-ish, I got back up, feeling much much better. I went back to the recovery station, had another juice and snack and then was on my semi-merry way.

So here’s the lesson:

  • Actually follow the advice the Red Cross gives you
  • Get a good night’s rest the day before you donate
  • Eat a hearty breakfast – not just a wimpy bowl of cereal
  • Drink a ton of water
  • If your appointment is more than a couple hours after you ate breakfast, eat something else
  • Drink a ton of water
  • Don’t think you’re invincible

There you have it. All in all, it wasn’t scary so much as it was an intriguing experience. I had never lost consciousness so suddenly and I will admit that I believe in “mind over matter” – that strength of mind can overcome weakness of body. While this may be true on some scale, it is certainly not true on a larger scale, such as having a pint of blood taken out of me. Goodness, I wonder what it feels like to have a double-red donation. Must have to eat a fat steak and chug a gallon of water before donating.

Don’t let this deter you from donating. It’s really not that bad. The pin prick from the hemoglobin test is more painful than the insertion of the needle, and it’s hardly any sort of sensation at all. Save three lives with just a pint of your tasty tasty blood!

Red Cross Blood Donation

 

Got any interesting blood donation stories? Ever lost consciousness (blood-related or not)? Feel free to share your tale in the comments!

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2 thoughts on “A Guide to Giving Blood (Before Proceeding to Pass Out)

  1. I’ve tried giving blood before. I think they got about 100mL out of me before I passed out. I’m absolutely fine with being stabbed for the hemoglobin test, apparently, but the actual drawing of blood? So much nope. I’ll have to give it another shot some day, see if I can’t last long enough to give them something usable.

    • It is pretty bizarre to see something with a diameter much greater than a sewing needle just penetrate your body like that. It seems so unnatural… yet amazing at the same time. Try eating a hefty meal the next time you try. (I know I will). šŸ˜€

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