Everything I Wish I Knew Before Donating Blood

My dad is what you might call a super donor. He has B+ blood, one of the more sought-after types, so you’ll find him in the chair every chance he gets. Then he donates all his Red Cross shirts, surprisingly comfy socks, and even a cup to his broke daughter. Not to be outdone by a 60-year-old man, and wanting to do something good for the community, I decided to donate too. Read ahead for a full look at what to expect when you’re expecting to give blood. 


You can be healthy and still not donate

There are plenty of reasons why you might not be able to donate, and they can range from minor illness to Covid-19, or even just certain symptoms. I recommend checking online first to see if you’re eligible, and you can always ask your nurse if you have even the slightest doubt. If you feel you’re asking too many questions, don’t worry. I asked at least five times more. 

Even then you might still get caught on a technicality. The first time I donated blood I never made it to the table. After filling out the questions they took my temperature and found out that I was 0.2 degrees too high to donate it. Normally they catch this right as you sign up when they take your temperature before giving you the forms to fill out. As the nurse explained to me, while my temperature was fine a few minutes ago, the face masks, the stress of giving blood, or even wearing a heavy coat can increase your temperature just enough so that you aren’t eligible. While it was annoying, I know that it was best for everyone involved that I try again when not carrying a heavy backpack and coat that could melt a snowman. Plus it gave me a chance to tell everyone that I’m “officially too hot to donate blood.” 


Prepare at home, and prepare to get poked

A lot of the forms they require you to look at can be done online. Especially if you’re a first-time donor, in a rush, or afraid you might chicken out, I recommend signing up beforehand at a specific time and making sure you fill out the forms online to cut your wait time down. 

The doctors and nurses take blood donation very seriously, especially in the age of Covid-19. To ensure that you’re a healthy donor, before all donations you’re asked to fill out a survey about your health, symptoms, etc. Especially if you’re in a rush, I recommend filling out the required surveys online, reading through the guidelines from the comfort of your own bed so you aren’t left wandering into class late and extremely pale. Even if you do that, before donating blood they check your temperature, blood pressure, etc. In my case, they drew a little drop of it from my finger which seemed a bit counterintuitive considering I was about to drop a bag, but it allows them to test it before you get poked. 


They’re used to fainting

I’m what you might call a wuss. It’s actually what kept me from donating blood for so long; I couldn’t get past the image of the blood bag spilling on the floor as I swooned, clutching my pearls like a southern belle. 

If that happens, don’t just clutch your pearls. It happens to almost everyone, especially their first time around. They tend to want more blood than you’re used to giving for tests, so even the most hardened patients might feel themselves begin to faint. If that happens to you, Grab one of the nurses walking around and tell them. They normally have juice and fans on hand for just such an occasion, and in most cases, they can let you lay down until you feel ready to sit back up. If, like me, you’re prone to fainting, you can even tell them beforehand, ask for some juice or bring along your own snacks. No matter how faint you get, remember...


You aren’t alone… but come prepared with distractions

What surprised me most about donating blood was just how many people were watching over you. At least when I did it, we had one nurse for every two people, as well as several bands of nurses and helpers roaming the floors checking in. Not only that, but there’s almost always someone donating blood with you. So don’t be afraid to make eye contact! Maybe you’ll find a new friend, or maybe you’ll just make awkward eye contact with someone as they faint. 

However, if no one is feeling particularly chatty while the blood leaves their body, don’t be too surprised. Just in case you don’t meet the love of your life or your new maid of honor, make sure you come prepared with something to keep you occupied. Personally, I like scrolling through Her Campus or looking at pictures of my dog, it really took my mind away from the lightheadedness. 


You might experience physical symptoms

My right hand started to tingle like it was falling asleep and began to clench into a fist that I couldn’t open. I thought something had gone wrong but as the beleaguered nurse nearest to me explained, your body might overcorrect to the sudden loss of blood, especially for first-timers. Thankfully the feeling comes back once you’re done donating, and the more you donate the less likely that is to happen. Like I said before, donating blood normally involves more blood than you might be used to giving, but it’s for a good cause and can even benefit you! 


You get information out of the process too! 

Do you know your blood type? I didn’t until three months ago. My parents couldn’t remember, and I never thought to ask, and so I just went through life hoping I never needed a transfusion and wondering, always wondering. Well, that is just one of the things you learn once you donate blood. To ensure everyone gets the best blood they can, all donations are tested before use. You can find out your blood type, blood pressure, and even your hemoglobin! Not to brag, but I’m rocking that sweet 14.9 hemoglobin and a B+ blood type. They even test your blood to see if you have any Covid-19 antibodies, finally letting you know if that cold you had in 2019 was actually Covid-19, and you were patient zero. 


Becoming a super donor like my dad will take time, patience, and most importantly, blood. However, it's one of the best ways to help out in your community. All it takes is 20 minutes for you to potentially save a life! So I want to challenge all of you, especially my fainter friends, to sign up. It’s the perfect way to get over your fear of needles and do something good at the same time. Whether your blood type is A, B, or even the legendary O-, they need you! As for me, it turns out my blood type is B+ as well, so it looks like I’ll have to continue my father’s legacy of donating blood and collecting Red Cross swag.