About a year ago I decided to donate blood for the first time. A lot of people were surprised that I had never done it before, especially since I’ve worked in the medical field before and I love helping people in general. But for some reason, I had just never gotten around to it. So I finally made an appointment and everything actually went really well. When I saw the Red Cross was having another blood drive near my home recently I decided to donate again and naturally, I expected everything to go well this time too.
My Second Time Donating Blood
I felt fine on the day of donation. I woke up and had a good meal a few hours before I went. Since I don’t have a car right now so I had to walk to the blood drive but it was only about a 10-minute walk from my house and I actually walked to the blood drive the first time. So I didn’t expect that to be an issue. And before they let you donate they check your iron level and mine was fine.
During The Blood Donation Process
I’ve never been afraid of needles, even the big ones used for blood donation. So while I was sitting there I decided to play on my phone because the process takes a few minutes. I don’t remember exactly how long it takes (but I think it’s about 15 minutes or so). And I felt fine until the process was almost over and that’s when it hit me all at once.
I suddenly started feeling very lightheaded. Then I felt very nauseated. Then my face felt numb and I thought I was going to pass out. I told the staff what was going on and they immediately laid my chair back so I could lay down and they told me to do things like cough really hard. They also told me to tap my feet together over and over like Dorthy from the Wizard of Oz. Despite all the symptoms I was having I just kept thinking that I really wanted to eat something. As soon as the blood donation process was over (we were close enough to it being over that we didn’t have to stop early) and I started feeling well enough to sit up again they gave me some apple juice and a snack. After I had that I started immediately feeling better. Within about 5 minutes I felt completely normal again.
After The Bad Reaction
Even though I felt fine I didn’t think it was a good idea to try to walk home so I had my boyfriend pick me up. I felt fine the rest of the day with the exception of feeling more tired than usual. But since everything went so well the first time I donated I couldn’t help but wonder what went wrong this time? So I did some research and it seems like I did everything right except for one thing. I didn’t drink nearly enough water. It’s recommended to drink a LOT of water (at least 16 ounces) the day before and on the day you donate blood. This will help replace some of the fluid your body is going to lose. I didn’t drink very much fluid that day at all. But I did everything else right though. I remembered to eat a good meal before donating. I made sure to eat foods with a good amount of iron.
Will I Donate Blood Again?
Despite having a bad reaction I still plan on donating again. Why? Because even though this reaction was unpleasant it didn’t last that long and it happened in a controlled environment. The human body doesn’t like losing blood. That’s a fact. And if you aren’t properly prepared for it (and sometimes even if you are) it will react to it pretty strongly. That’s normal. But there is a huge difference between losing some blood from a bad accident or losing some in a very safe, controlled environment where you have trained staff that know exactly what they’re doing. The minute I told them I felt bad they immediately sprang into action to take care of me. They kept an extremely close eye on me and kept asking me questions to make sure I was doing okay. They did a great job and at no point did I ever feel like I was unsafe or that my condition would get worse.
Donating Blood Helps Others
Not to mention, I think a small amount of discomfort is worth it considering all the good it can do. According to the Red Cross, someone in the U.S. needs a blood transfusion every two seconds. Just one donation of blood has the potential to save up to three lives. That’s pretty awesome.
Donating Blood Can Help Yourself
Donating blood can have benefits for the donor as well. Aside from just making you feel good because you know you’re helping others, a 2013 study found it could help lower the risk of heart disease. It may also decrease the risk of developing certain types of cancers.
So even though bad reactions can happen, they are preventable if you drink plenty of water beforehand (which I forgot to do), get a good meal, get plenty of sleep, and make sure your iron levels are good. And even if you do have a bad reaction, it doesn’t last very long and the staff is trained in how to deal with it so you’ll be very well taken care of and safe.
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