Two years and four days ago, I was having my second red blood cell transfusion in as many months—here’s a picture from that day. (along with my medical ID tag from yours truly “My Identity Doctor” attached to my own paracord).
In 2013, from May to September, I received blood on five separate occasions, totaling 10 units—many people who need blood need more than that. You can read my story here. I’m also fortunate that I have had the opportunity to donate in the past, and I look forward to doing so again soon.
Donating blood is an easy process as long as you are eligible. You’ll undergo a screening by a nurse at the clinic, usually on paper which the nurse will go over with you to ensure all questions are answered, and answered correctly. Your vital signs (blood pressure and heart rate, and sometimes temperature) will be checked, and you’ll be asked if you’re feeling well. If all goes well, you’ll be taken to the medical equivalent of a chaise lounge, a phlebotomist or nurse will put a sterile needle in attached to a collection bag, and the blood taken will equal about a pint, or under half a litre. After your donation, the staff will have you sit for a bit, and then go to another area to stay supervised. (In Canada, and I believe the US, this is where you’ll be given juice to help re-hydrate after losing body fluid through your donation. Yep, you heard me—free food! Depending on the facility, they may also provide you with a free medical ID. These are typically made out of paper and used to put your blood type on them. It might not be your most preferred piece of medical jewelry, but free is free and it is good to have.
You’ll want to take it fairly easy for the rest of the day of your donation—you should feel fine (so yes, you can absolutely go back to work!), but avoid strenuous exercise for the rest of the day. If you have a shop puppy such as we do. It is highly suggested taking a moment to pet him or her : )
Donated blood is separated into components that patients need—so your donation may help multiple patients—whole blood is separated into red blood cells, white blood cells, and plasma. In the US, more than 41,000 blood donations are needed every single day . The most common need for blood products is for sickle cell disease (also known as sickle cell anemia) and cancers of the blood and bone marrow, such as leukemia or lymphoma. People with bleeding disorders, such as hemophilia, may also need blood transfusion. Iron deficiency anemia or trauma patients also need blood transfusions if their blood volumes, or hemoglobin (red blood cell), counts get too low.
While in most circumstances, you will only receive O-negative blood until your blood is typed and cross-matched (as the risk is far too great if the wrong type and antigen [+/-] is transfused), we do have blood type medical ID dog tags and medical bracelets available for your peace of mind—you can also have your blood type engraved on any of our other items.
Speaking about blood. Coumadin and Warfarin are blood thinning medication you will certainly disclaim to your clinic before donating. This should come up during the pre-screening, but it’s important to note in-case it does not. Coumadin bracelets and warfarin bracelets are two of the most popular medical bracelets to have. Though most medical jewelry is custom engraved. Lot’s of times only the words COUMADIN or TAKING WARFARIN is engraved. If you are taking either one of these medications, a coumadin bracelet or warfarin bracelet is highly recommended.
Are you a blood donor or recipient? Do you know someone who has received blood? Share your story below. If you have questions, contact your local American Red Cross chapter, check out the FAQs from the Red Cross, or in Canada, visit Canadian Blood Services.
American Red Cross also has a very helpful iPhone application for blood donors. This application helps you find locations, blood drives and various useful information for donating blood. They offer a reward program as-well which allows you to earn rewards for your donation. One of the rewards is a free Medical ID tag. So take a look and search for the American Red Cross application in your itunes.