For me, something that really encapsulates Christmas (aside from the religious aspects and drinking far too much wine) is to think of others, be generous and kind, and give what you can to make other people who may not be having the best time of their lives a bit of a lift. To that end, I thought it would be a great time to give my first ever blood donation!
I went along to the local Town Hall this afternoon for my appointment, feeling a little bit sick at the thought of being hooked up to a machine that would suck a pint of blood from my veins! After filling in a form I was asked to drink a big drink of juice to keep my blood pressure up and help prevent me from fainting during the appointment. Then a kindly looking male nurse took me into a private booth to ask me some questions about my medical health and history, and to test my iron levels.
Now if you ever go along to a blood donation for the first time, this is the bit you really won't like. They spike the tip of your finger with a sharp tool, squeeze it until blood comes out and suck some out of the wound with a pipette - then drop a blob in some blue stuff. If the blob sinks, you've got good iron levels. If it floats, you've got a problem and may be anemic (not good for blood donation). The thing is, they don't tell you how much the spike hurts! People would probably just tell me to man up and deal with it - people lose legs and complain less - but honestly it really stings, and the pain lasts for a while after! Anyway, plaster on the offended finger and back to the waiting area I went.
Shortly a friendly but matronly looking nurse came and fetched me - my turn had arrived. She sat me down in a big scoopy plastic chair with comfy cushions on the feet and behind my head and proceeded to try and find a vein in my left arm. Apparently there weren't any veins in my left arm so she tried the right instead hoping for better luck. Success! A big fat vein perfectly central in my arm. Matron nurse took an antiseptic wipe and polished my elbow vigorously with it like it was a rusty silver Christmas tree ornament, and then I was "ready to go". Eek. On with the blood pressure cuff to make the vein stick out, clenched fist, sharp scratch and "OUCH" the needle was in.
I watched the blood disappear from my body into the plastic blood bag next to me and felt strangely relaxed as the Christmas tunes played in the background. My arm felt a little tingly but not painful, and I thought about how much my donation would end up helping people. At my Slimming World meeting later, a friend told me how good a thing it was to do, as you really are saving a life by donating. That felt good.
So the donation came to an end, and the machine started to making its bleepy noises and Matron nurse returned to whip the needle out of my arm and get me sat up straight and my arm dressed. I was excited now for my reward of biscuits! After making sure I was okay, I was led over by Matron nurse to the recovery area, where there were trays of chocolate biscuits, crisps and plenty of juice to keep the generous donors' blood sugars up. I grabbed myself an orange chocolate club and some orange squash to match, chilled out for 20 minutes and finally felt ready to go. Not woozy or ill at all, although my arm felt a little heavy but no worse than after a vaccination.
Anyway, that was it! I hope if anybody reading is thinking about donating blood but wants to know more about what goes on, this clears things up and reassures that there really isn't anything to worry about. Go and book that appointment, and give a really important gift this Christmas season.