As someone with serious anxiety, I can’t pretend that I did not avoid donating blood for years because of the whole stage I had set in my head.
I swore that I would be drained off all my blood, as if the nurses were vampires. Then there are the ‘giant needles’ and the whole blood sucking process. I always find myself faint having routine bloods taken so I didn’t think it’d be a good idea. Really I was just trying to find excuses to calm my inner morality.
You see, anxiety likes to take any situation and make it into this huge melodrama. Inside I know that things are never as bad as they seem but my brain just refuses to register that.
When I was 15, my mother had a stroke in her early 40s. This prompted some blood tests and showed she had a blood condition called Factor V Leiden – which she passed onto me.
It means that at the moment, as I am healthy with no history of blood clots or strokes, I can donate blood. However, if in the (high) chance that I do develop said effects of my blood disorder, I will no longer be able to donate.
Now I always wanted to donate blood as a child, part of it was the curiosity of knowing my blood type (O+). But I also wanted to donate to A: help people and B: to give back incase I ever needed a transfusion.
Last year, I found the courage to book the appointment to donate blood. I decided that I didn’t want to miss my chance and that I should just see how it goes. I told myself if I only go once then I can see what it’s like and then I don’t have to go again if it is too much.
I’m so glad I went to the appointment because it was a very rewarding experience. The nurses were all very kind and attentive with a sense of humour – there were lots of giggles. There was also a sense of community between each donator, everyone was chatting and getting to know each other. I met a lovely girl who had rare blood, B+ I think and was now on her 20th appointment – It made my heart flutter with joy to meet this unsung hero.
The process was fast and before I knew it, I was sitting with a cup of tea and some biscuits before I went home. I was well looked after and even when a few patients decided to bleed after their session – it was dealt with right away with a smile.
So I not only got to help a patient from Romford who used my blood. I also found myself mentally rewarded in meeting so many wonderful people. It is easy to forget that good Samaritans do exist – but they do.
I have now donated a second time and plan to continue to donate for as long as I am able. It feels good to save lives but I also have found this whole new world of joy and happiness.
I do know how scary it can be to have blood taken but I do encourage you to have a go, just once – maybe like me it’ll be the start of something more. Even donating once a year can save a life, that’s priceless.