Giving blood more important than ever….

Lifestyle / Fri 17th Jan 2014 at 01:01pm

NEW YEAR resolutions take many shapes and forms.

YH contributor, Jim O’Sullivan tells us why giving blood is more important than ever.

“ON Sunday I went along for my regular three monthly appointment to donate blood. If I were to ask you to guess the percentage of the adult population that currently give blood what number would you come up with? 20%? 15%? No! It’s actually a paltry 4%! Can you believe that?

I would say that nearly everybody has either been in hospital or knows a member of their family who have frequented one of these institutions for one reason or another be it routine or emergency. Donated blood may not have been needed for the vast majority of these instances but who knows what will happen in the future? God forbid, but yours or their lives may depend on someone’s donation, maybe tomorrow, maybe next year, maybe never. The important stat is that 25% of us will need a blood product at least once in our life.

I started donating blood 22 years ago when my wife became pregnant with our twin sons. Childbirth in the modern world is not as dangerous as it was 100 years ago but when your wife is pregnant (with twins at 30) you think of all the ‘what if’ outcomes. These thoughts along with the prompting of a friend whose wife was also pregnant at the same time led us both to make the first of many donations.

Thankfully the caesarean birth(s) went without a hitch but little was I to know that eight years later a transfusion of donated blood would save the life of my wife after an ectopic pregnancy caused massive intenal bleeding. The surgeons later told us she was a very lucky woman. Obviously it was not my blood that my wife received but that of a few people (she needed a lot of blood!), complete strangers who to this day are probably unaware that their donations will enable us to celebrate our 30th wedding anniversary this year rather than me and my sons commemorating an anniversary of a more sombre nature. To those donors i will be eternally grateful that they made the effort to give blood. I can only hope that the blood that I have donated over the years has had the same result for someone somewhere.

‘I don’t like needles’, ‘I’m scared’ are no doubt things going through some people’s heads when reading this. Eleanor Roosevelt once said ‘Do one thing everyday that scares you’. Make giving blood one day’s scary event! What’s the worst that can happen? When I worked in the City I made it my mission to persuade at least one colleague to come along with me to donate for the first time each time I went. I won’t lie, it didn’t always end well, with a couple ending up on a bed (not together) with their legs up in the air and flannel on their head after feeling faint. If you’re going to faint there’s no more ideal place than a doning session, surrounded by friendly nurses, comfy beds and plenty of refreshments! They didn’t go again BUT AT LEAST THEY TRIED IT!! Others continue to go to this day and are glad that I pushed, cajoled (or forced) them to go.

There are weekly sessions at the Latton Bush Centre. Look up the where, when and how at the National Blood Centre’s web site http://www.blood.co.uk/giving-blood/

blood2It usually takes less than an hour, you get registered, asked about your health, then your index finger is pricked and one drop of blood dropped in to a phial of blue liquid to check it’s iron content. If it sinks you’re good to go, if it floats you get a stay of execution and are told to go away and come back another day and time ensuring that in the interim you have eaten and drunk all foods and liquids rich in iron (guinness, red meat, guinness, leafy greens, beans, nuts, guinness, whole grains, dark chocolate and of course, guinness). After passing that test you are then sent to a different table where you need to drink at least half a pint of water in 10 seconds (no I’m lying about the 10 seconds, take as long as you like). After completing the water drinking test you are then called by a nurse. Up until last year you were then asked to lie on a bed. The bed has now been replaced by a space age chair that you sit in and once comfortable is tilted back 45 degrees (very comfy!). The needle is then inserted by the nurse, this is the time you look in another direction and think nice thoughts. Once secure you then move your fingers, make a fist and let the blood flow. In less than 10 minutes, hey presto you’re done. The needle is removed and a plaster put on. The nurses always ensure first timers are well looked after and carefully watched. Then it’s the best bit, tea, juice, biscuits and crisps! These seem to be mostly devoured by the children the donors have brought along.

So there you have it, ‘simples’ as the meerkats say. One hour out of your life three times a year, who knows how many peoples’ lives you may help or save. 4% doning is just not good enough, don’t leave it to other people to do. Try it at least once, if it doesn’t agree with you at least you can say ‘I gave it a go’, you may surprise yourself. As their advert says – ‘Do something amazing today’. Because some people took the time out of their day to do something amazing many years ago I still get to enjoy the company of my wife, something for which I thank God each and every day.

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