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Wednesday, January 11, 2012

A Red Cross Adventure Donating Blood

Yesterday, I finally got to donate blood for the first time! My friend signed up to donate blood so he could score some free Clippers tickets and I decided to accompany him. I've been wanting to donate blood for a long time and even tried to donate a few years ago, but I didn't have enough iron so I couldn't do it. Imagine how happy I was when the nurse told me I had enough iron. Yay!
Red Cross Blood Donation Souvenirs
The process itself is fairly quick. I think the worst part was when they prick your finger to test your iron levels in your blood, but other than that it's not a bad experience at all. After they insert the needle, you just lie there squeezing a ball every 5 seconds until the bag gets full. Then, they take a bit more blood in little test tube vials for some lab tests on your blood. I did feel a little light-headed afterward, but they just had me lie down for a bit longer with my knees up. Afterward, you go to the canteen area where you can snack and replenish your fluids. The staff was super friendly and very helpful, which made the experience all the more enjoyable.

If it's your first time donating blood, here's some helpful advice:
  • Drink lots of water starting at least a day or two BEFORE you donate blood. You want to be well hydrated. It makes a big difference! Even though they started taking blood from my (less-hydrated) friend first, we ended up filling our bags at the same time! I asked how that was possible and the nurse replied it was because I was hydrated. So yes! Score one for water!
  • Also, load up on iron-rich foods (especially if you're female). I didn't do that the first time so I ended up with low iron and couldn't donate. The Red Cross provides a helpful list of iron-rich foods on their website. Personally, I ate red meat and dark, leafy greens. I also added an iron supplement per my doctor's recommendation, but you should consult your physician before doing that yourself. 
  • After the donation, I highly recommend drinking lots of water and eating at least a few of the snacks. One of the girls who finished after us just sat there and then she ended up almost fainting.
  • Finally, my last bit of advice is to convince your friends to go and donate together! My friend and I were on neighboring beds so we could chat as we donated. We had a bunch of laughs while snacking afterwards too. One of the volunteers even commented that we were having too much fun, but it made the experience more entertaining.
  • And don't forget to enjoy the fact that you helped save 3 lives! It's a wonderful feeling!
I'm so happy I got to donate! I was a bit tired and sore afterward (though that might be a combination of the workout I did before donating and the actual blood donation itself), but the sense of accomplishment trumps all that! If you're healthy and capable, I'd recommend donating blood at least once. It's so simple and you help so many people!

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