I have been meaning to write a post on the subject of blood/organ/stem cell donation for a long time. I see tweets from people asking questions so I thought I would share my experiences, how and why I decided to sign up and how and where you can do the same, if you wish.
These are however just my experiences so yours will most probably not be the same but sometimes it’s nice to know what to expect when doing something knew. All these donations are so important, if you donate already, amazing! If you’re thinking about it, don’t want to or can’t, you can still save a life by sharing the importance of someone else signing up. So let’s talk about how to save a life, but be warned, I will be talking about some things people may not like the sound of.
I’m not sure what urged me to sign up but I registered and completed my first blood donation in August 2014. In 2015 I became pregnant and I couldn’t donate again until six months after giving birth. My second donation was in June 2017 and I’m booked in for my third in September.
Signing up is easy and you can do it online here.
WHAT DOES BLOOD DONATION INVOLVE?
When you turn up to your appointment you will have to fill out a form (or you may have been sent it in the post) this form asks about your sexual history, travel history and whether you have taken drugs etc. You will also have to have a prick test where they will test your iron levels prior to donating.
Once this is complete I am asked to drink a big cup full of water while I wait, they then confirm your information and get you settled for your donation. They take 470ml of blood (just under a pint) and usually takes between 5-10 minutes to complete. If you keep moving and squeezing your hand it keeps the blood flowing, if you don’t it takes longer. This happened to me last time I went but the nurse just kept prompting me to move and gave me a stress ball to squeeze.
Once your donation is complete a nurse stays with you to check that you don’t feel faint or light headed. When they are happy you’re okay you go to an area for a drink and something to eat and you’re done.
Men can give blood every 12 weeks and women can give blood ever 16 weeks.
My first time I donated I was absolutely fine, I didn’t feel lightheaded in the slightest. However the second time when I sat up the room span and I felt really lightheaded so I had to sit still for about 20 minutes while drinking orange squash and eating crisps until the nurse was happy I was ok.
This can happen to anyone, people can donate for years and never have an issue and then one day they could faint. It’s nothing to worry about, nothing to be embarrassed about or ashamed of. It’s completely normal and at the end of the day, your donation will save a life.
STEM CELL TRANSPLANT
Since I signed up for blood donation I have always wanted to join the bone marrow register too but have only just done it. I signed up a couple of weeks ago and then my test kit turned up in the post, seeing this actually prompted me to write this post. I finally signed up on the Anthony Nolan register a few weeks ago, I forgot about it until a testing kit turned up in the post.
The kit includes a testing tube which you have to spit into (I know that sounds pretty grim and it was) but then you just seal it up and send it back and they let you know 6-8 weeks later if you are suitable to be on the register.
Most candidates donate their stem cells via bloodstream however some may be required for stem cells to be collected directly from their bone marrow while under general anaesthetic. People that register need to be comfortable with donating either way. You can remove yourself from the register at any time, stem cell transplant can be very painful but totally worth it.
If I’m approved and ever asked to donate stem cells, I will of course share the whole process on here.
PIN IT!ORGAN DONATION
Organ donation can be a sensitive subject and a big decision. When I filled out my form I could choose what I wanted to donate, some people have their reasons as to what they may not want to donate and that’s completely fine. On my form I ticked everything except my lungs, my left lung collapsed in 2010 and could happen again at any time so I don’t even know if they would be wanted anyway. You can choose to donate all or your options are; Kidney, heart, liver, small bowel, corneas, lungs, pancreas and tissue. If you choose to sign up but others are telling you not too, just remember it’s your decision.
If you are thinking about signing up to any or sharing the information, make sure to read up fully on all the procedures yourself prior to doing so. This post is more about what to expect when you sign up, the only donation I have experience with is the blood donation but it varies with every person.
I hope this post has helped in someway though and good luck if you decide to sign up.