Today I donated blood for the first time. I have wanted to give blood for a long time. Every month or so, Canadian Blood Services (CBS) would hold a donation clinic at the cafeteria at work.
Nothing happens without being proactive, so I called CBS and booked an appointment to sign up to be a donor. I was asked a few questions on the phone when I booked, mostly around what countries I have visited. After going through them all, the attendant agreed that there were no issues and booked me for my first donation.
The clinic was actually a Bloodmobile, which was parked at the Costco building. I arrived a few minutes early. When I entered the bus, I was checked in immediately, then sent into a room at the back of the bus where I could fill out a form in private. After I filled out the form, a nurse went over the form with me, as I had noted a few items, such as when I fainted in Los Angeles. We also reviewed the countries I have visited, and again there were no issues. I was also asked about my vaccinations for an upcoming trip. When I booked the appointment, I was not told that I needed to list my vaccinations too. I could not remember everything, but the nurse and I worked through the list for Tanzania and agreed that I was ok. She also told me that after I return from Tanzania, I will not be able to donate for a full year, due to the malaria risk.
After the paperwork was completed, I was taken to one of the four beds in the front of the bus. I was connected up and I could see a small, clear bag that filled with blood. From that small bag, four tubes were drawn, like the ones used for blood tests. I waited for the next phase when they would start the donation when the nurse stopped by and said I was all done. I was surprised, and so was the woman across the isle. She had been donating since before I lay on the bed. She glanced over at me in shock that I could be done so fast. I didn’t even know there was a second tube I could not see that had already been taking the donation.
I was told I had to wait for 5 minutes before I could leave, and was given a timer. As I sat there, I started feeling cold (that was expected), but I also started feeling a little nauseous. Then I felt lightheaded. I thought it was minor at first, but it started getting worse. I started feeling like I did in Los Angeles before I passed out. This was not good. I could see the timer counting down; nearly 5 minutes had elapsed, so I waited until the nurse returned instead of raising an alarm.
When she returned, she could see I was in some distress. She asked me how I felt, and I explained. She set the bed down flat and I laid down. Another nurse came by and inquired about my state. The first nurse replied that it was my first time, and the second nurse nodded knowingly.
I was brought a bottled water and an orange juice. Even though I thought I had drank enough before my appointment, I could see that it was not, and that I did not have enough sugar. Next time I’ll know better and be prepared.
After a few short minutes I felt much better and could get up. I walked to the front door of the bus and sat down. There were Oreo cookies there, so I had some – it’s been years since I had some and they were good! Feeling much better, I got in my car and headed to work.
[Updated Oct 31, 2011: One reason I pushed myself to donate blood was because I had a friend and former colleague who was diagnosed with Leukemia. Sadly, Craig passed away on the weekend. Last week, before this news, I began looking into bone marrow donation.]