My Experience Donating Blood for the First Time

If I were to compile a list of my greatest fears, sticking a needle in my arm and having a pint of blood drawn from my body would be high on that list. So, it was surprising not only to me, but to my friends and family that I willingly decided to donate blood for the first time earlier this year. While I had no idea what to expect, my experience was far from easy, as I was not at all prepared for what I had signed up for.

Before I recount my fulfilling, yet difficult experience, I would like to first explain why I decided to donate blood, and the organization I donated to. During my 4 years in high school, a blood truck came monthly to collect from willing students, and I had always considered donating, but never did. When I heard that a local blood drive was accepting donations at Tulane University, I decided to get over my fear and donate. Not only was I determined to get over my fear, but the organization, The Blood Center, also shared why it is so important for people to donate, since even though almost half the population is eligible to donate, only a small percentage of people choose to. The desire to get over my fear and help others was enough to make me want to donate.

My Experience

On the day I got my blood drawn, I was so nervous that I originally went to donate at 11 in the morning but witnessed another student fainting after they donated and left for fear that would happen to me. However, after being assured by the nurse that he had not eaten beforehand, I decided to go back and donate-after eating a large lunch.

I started by answering a series of questions that determined if I was eligible to donate, and even had to have sample of my blood tested to be safe. I then waited about 30 minutes after these questions to get my blood drawn, which felt more like hours considering how nervous I was. When it was finally my turn, the nurse could tell how scared I was, and she helped to calm me down before inserting the needle in my arm.

 For the first 3 minutes, I felt perfectly fine, and even started to berate myself for thinking this was a scary experience. However, after those three minutes, I started to feel so sick and understood why the other student had almost fainted. I started to feel extremely light-headed and was sweating and shivering at the same time, which was made worse because the sun was shining directly on my chair. I began to feel so uncomfortable that I was begging the nurses around me to remove the needle from my arm and let me out of the chair. They reassured me that I was over halfway done, and if I stopped now, my donation would’ve been for nothing as the donations had to be a certain weight, or they would be discarded and considered useless. However, the nurses were more than willing to help me get through this pain and brought me apple juice and held my hair back as to help me breathe easier. Once they helped me out, I felt much better and was to breathe easier and finish my donation without anything else going wrong.

What I Learned

Even though it was physically and mentally hard for me, I completely recommend donating blood whenever you can. However, if you are like me and scared to donate because you are not sure what to expect, I would like to provide some advice to help. Before you even begin to consider donating, you need to be completely aware of your health status, what prescription drugs you are taking and if they affect your donation. If you find that you are ineligible but still want to help, you should consider money to any organization, like The Blood Center, who will put this money to good use. If you are fit to donate and have decided to donate blood, make sure that the day before and especially on the day of to drink lots of water and eat hearty meal relatively close to your donation time. Once you’re in the chair, even if you have eaten a good meal, I recommend wearing a loose fitting shirt and tying your hair back so it is not touching your skin (if you have long or thick hair like I do) and asking for a fruit juice while you donate, as it will make you feel less dizzy afterwards. Also, for some people, the thought of watching your blood be collected in a pouch is less than appealing, so try to think of anything else besides what you are doing, whether you need to listen to music or organize the rest of your day in your head.

Finally, even if you are scared or have doubts about what you are doing, remind yourself that your donation is a life changing experience for you, and a life-saving experience for up to three other people who will receive your blood.

If you are interested in donating blood, I personally recommend The Blood Center, which you can visit at: http://www.thebloodcenter.org/Default.aspx