By Shaista Gohir

Although I feel squeamish when giving my blood only for a blood test, I would still try and donate blood if I could  unfortunately, I am not able to because of health reasons. However, I have been encouraging my children to donate and be organ donors. Last year when my son turned 18, he decided to donate blood for the first time. With his permission, I am sharing his experience.

Last December, he went to donate blood with his friends from his university Jiu Jitsu Club. Most were donating for the first time. This probably made it easier, such as making him feel less apprehensive. So if you are thinking of donating, it may be a good idea to also try and persuade your friends to join you. My son and his friends had to register online and were provided with a blood donor number, which they used to make their appointments.
One of his friends was unfortunately not allowed to give blood on the day

On the day, my son made sure that he plenty of drank water and ate something prior to attending the clinic to maintain blood sugar levels and to help prevent feeling faint and dizzy (which can happen due to a drop in blood pressure). Before he was able to donate, he had to fill in a questionnaire and have a finger prick test where a few drops of blood were taken to check for his hemoglobin count, which is an indirect way of checking iron levels. If your levels are too low you would be not be allowed to donate and be asked to come back. One of his friends was unfortunately not allowed to give blood on the day. However, the other friends were allowed and did so at the same time in the same room. My son mentioned how they enjoyed talking to each other while they were giving blood because they were sharing the experience. I am sure it will be a day he will always remember. He said that it did not hurt except for the few seconds of the needle going in, which was like having a blood test.

Since donating, my son says he has been receiving regular reminders to donate again, which he feels are being sent a bit too often. He will be donating again but is a bit apprehensive at the moment due to COVID-19 and its disproportionate impact on BAME communities.

Some useful information on blood donation:

How much blood is taken?

About 470 ml is taken which is about 10% of your total blood volume

How long does it take for my body to make up the blood again?

Your body will make up the blood loss within a day or two and it will take another few week to replace the red cells providing there is enough iron in your diet.

How long does the blood donation take?

The actual blood donation part takes about 15 minutes but the whole process, which includes completing a questionnaire and having refreshments, usually takes 45-60 minutes

How often can I donate?

Male donors must wait a minimum of 12 weeks in between donations and can only make up to 4 donations per calendar year. Female donors must wait a minimum of 16 weeks in between donations and can only give up to 3 donations per calendar year.

How can I register to be a blood donor?

If you would like to register, the NHS blood and transplant website has further information

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