Absent With Leave

I’ve been trying to figure out how to structure this blog post for a few days now.

I deviated from my blog schedule this week due to not-illness. By that I mean I took half a day from work and donated blood. My first-ever donation was made when I was 16, and I haven’t done it in a few years. This was my second donation.

If you are squeamish about blood you may like to turn back now.

The opportunity came up through work – someone sent around an email inviting people to come along, be ferried to the clinic and tap a vein.

Here’s the details. A friendly nurse took my hemoglobin levels (iron levels present) and declared them really good. This is done with a quick jab-and-make-bleed of your finger. I was then ushered to a bed-chair thing. Imagine if you cross a dentist’s chair with a couch, and a raised head-cushion thing.

They sanitize and find the best vein, and I think they try to go for the non-dominant arm. They were certainly accommodating when I made the request. In goes the needle – you get fair warning to turn away – and you get a squeezy ball. It’s basically a stress ball. As you squeeze it, the blood goes through the needle and tubes, filling the blood bag. I found it really interesting to watch the bag fill, and they have like a scale thing. The scale-thing tips back and forth as blood goes into the bag, and then it beeps when done.

Overall, it made me a bit… I’m going to say unwell, because it’s the best word I have. I don’t mean I passed out – I do recall watching my blood going through the tube into a blood bag. And I think I wasn’t doing the breathing-technique properly because I did feel woozy after, a bit shaky. A nurse took my blood pressure directly after, said it was lower, as you’d expect when you’ve just had a pint drawn from your body.

They took 500mL, which is standard and kind of a decent amount. It sounds like a lot but it’s actually about equal to a pint. Ever had a pint glass of beer? A Google search tells me a pint glass of beer is actually slightly more. (If you are someone who does not drink, let’s think about a 500mL drink, which my faithful pal Google tells me is close to 17 ounces. So, let’s say 17 ounces of soda.)

For the sake of visualization, look at a 500mL bottle of mouthwash. I don’t know why I didn’t think of that in the first place.

The nurses and needle-wielders could not have been lovelier about cold washcloths and bringing water bottles, a fan to help cool down, and there was no pressure to get up.

After, the rest area was really well stocked with cookies. Another nurse took blood pressure . This time it was better and I felt fine after two cookies, plus light lunch.

Two days on I have a bit of bruising and elbow discomfort. I learned the hard way not to stretch my arm, or have it bent up too long.

I dithered over this post for a while, trying to decide if I would in fact write it. Tried to decide if I would post it. I decided to do so because the New Zealand Blood Service has information which says that of eligible donors, only a tiny percentage do. I’ve not donated often – this was my second time in several years, but I’ve almost always been healthy enough to do so.

I thought of all the times I could’ve donated, and all the people who might need a transfusion.

2 thoughts on “Absent With Leave”

  1. Thanks for going through the ordeal. I have a phobia of needles which tends to keep me donating blood (I make myself feel better because I have the most common type of blood). It’s people like you who help those in need the most.


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