Sorry, another seemingly meaningless title. But hopefully, by the end, it will all become clear.
Today’s post focuses on me being a lifesaver. I know how to do a dramatic opening! But don’t worry, I’ll tell you how you can be a lifesaver too today.
I might have made this sound slightly more impressive than it really is. This week, I gave blood.
I’d originally booked the day off work so I could watch the England vs USA rugby match in all of its glory, but I had signed up to be a blood donor earlier in the year and struggled to find a suitable appointment slot. So, I thought finding a mid-week appointment might be easier. I booked into a specialist donor centre in central London. Decided to do this for my first donation rather than one of the pop-up shops as I felt this would be better, no real logic behind that decision.
Naturally, I arrived 10 minutes early. Signed myself in by handing over my pre-filled questionnaire and was given a welcome pack to read and told to help myself to a glass of water or squash. Clearly the problems of single-use plastic haven’t reached donor centres yet.
Having drunk my slightly more diluted than I’d have liked (I can only blame myself for this) drink, I was called through by one of the nurses. I was taken into a little room where she ran through a few more questions and took a sample of blood to check my iron levels. It is here where you watch a blob of blood go through a solution to be told you’re good to donate.
I was then walked over to a chair, not dissimilar to a dentist chair where a blood pressure sleeve was put onto my left arm and then my right to decide which vein to take it from. Can confirm, the right vein was a much stronger option so this was where the blood was taken from. But, as with everything in life, it was never that simple. The chair to the right of me was a bit too close for all the equipment to be set up, so I helped to pull the chair over to the left. And the equipment was all set up.
Sharp prick is a phrase nurses must use a billion times a day and it was made and the needle into my arm. The girl next to me then left her chair and a new girl came in who they were discussing the option of taking platelets from. Anyway, I sat there and watched some of the pre-match build-up on the TV.
A nurse then starts to hover as she can see the bag is getting pretty full. She says you’re nearly there, what drink would you like so I can get it ready? She doesn’t want to walk away, but probably also knows a watched pot never boils. The machine then beeps and she is straight in to do a “takedown” from here you’re told to apply three finger pressure to where the needle came out while they do their thing. It’s at this point I tell Rosie, who used to be a postie and is now helping out in donor centres, that I think I need to lie a bit further back. In true, NHS care style, the chair is whipped back, an ice pack given to me for the back of my neck and a straw added to the orange juice so she can help me to drink through it. Then someone who seems more senior comes over and tells me to squeeze the big muscles in my thighs, I don’t really know how to achieve this so kind of just shuffle in the chair. I’m then feeling much better but there is a strict chair stage process to follow before I’m up and off to the rest spot where you’re given more fluids and a bucket of snacks to pick from.
Here, I swap from orange and opt for a blackcurrant drink – first donors aren’t allowed hot drinks. I also tuck into a packet of ginger nuts and lotus biscuits. Unfortunately, now the only TV in view isn’t showing the rugby. I’m advised by Rosie to sit in the rest area for about 15 minutes so they can check in on me, so I take another squash and watch Londoners chat to fellow Londoners – I’m sure I’m not hallucinating at this point! Then a new person is brought into the rest area. He’s just done his 50th donation!
I have sat there for long enough and decide to make tracks back home, Kevin suggests I take a snack for the road. I politely tell him that’s an offer I can take up, he does then suggest I fill my bag, but that’s the sort of move that would leave the NHS on its knees! I potter to a shop to get a sugary drink for the journey, just in case, and make my way onto the tube with three first time donor stickers, one is proudly worn on my top.
So, it is probably here why you are still wondering why 7.55 was the title. Well, that’s the time it took me to give my full donation. They say the average is between 5 and 15 minutes, so I’m proud to report I’m an above-average lifesaver! A couple of the nurses asked if I have family members who donate – not sure if this is part of the recruitment for new donors drive – but I told them my dad has done loads and always has a quick donation. Remember Rosie? She told me, I’d be beating him in no time, so maybe my next donation will be a family trip!
I’m lucky enough to not need the NHS that often, generally, I’m in pretty good health. The care, attention and support from the NHS staff on Thursday was fantastic. And it really is a simple thing people can do to save lives. Naturally, knowing this was prime blog material I asked a few questions of the staff to inject some nuance into this post.
While, my donation was quick, there are a couple of special types of donor. The first is for babies. Most of the population are exposed to a virus that while isn’t dangerous lies dormant in our blood forever making us unsuitable to give blood to babies. Those that can, are given special bags so they can proudly show off their status.
The other refers to Ro donors, typically these are from minority ethnic backgrounds. The demand for this type of blood is on the rise, but the number of donors isn’t. The room of donors was a pretty white affair, and I’m pretty sure I was the youngest person there, but there were a few other people who could have been in their 20s and 30s but a good few silver foxes too.
I’m sure if you go to https://www.blood.co.uk/ the website will have crashed from all my blog traffic, but it takes seconds to sign up and get yourself an appointment booked in. Girls can donate three times a year, while boys can do it every 12 weeks. If you want to know why, I also asked that question, and the short answer is periods.
So if cracking NHS staff, free food and stickers and the chance to call yourself a live saver isn’t enough to encourage you to give blood, hopefully my story of how easy it is will help you take the plunge!