Logging onto twitter this morning I saw that it is International Blood Donor day. Straight away I knew that this was something I had to get involved in. I have been a blood donor since I was 18, but it was not until little Erin was in intensive care and dependent on the generosity of blood donors to make it through each day that I truly understood just what an amazing thing it is to do.
So today I have made it my mission to try and encourage more people to give blood - every pint donated is so precious, that even if only one person reads this blog entry or sees one of my tweets and books themselves into a blood donor session I will view it as a job well done.
I have seen two sides of blood donation - I have been the donor and I have been the fearful mother of a recipient who required blood tranfusions on a daily basis in order to survive. I am going to tell you a little about each of these experiences.
For me, donating blood is easy. For those of you who have never donated blood, I will tell you what happens. I go online to http://www.blood.co.uk/ and enter my postcode. This tells me when and where the next local blood donation session will be taking place. I then book onto that session online - it really is that simple. On the day of the session I turn up and sign in at the desk then sit in the waiting area and drink a big glass of water. If it is your first session you will need to answer some questions to ensure your eligibility to give blood. Details of these can be found on the website.
When my name is called a friendly nurse takes me to a private area and asks me some questions about my recent health. They also take a pinprick of blood from my finger in order to test my haemoglobin levels. If all is okay I am ready to go. I am taken to lie down on a bed, the area on my chosen arm is numbed and the blood is taken - approximately 470ml. Afterwards I am given a drink and a biscuit in the waiting area and am able to book my next appointment for 3 months time. The whole process takes about 45 minutes.....that is all. Just 45 minutes of your time once every 3 months to help save lives. It really is an amazing thing to do.
The other side of blood donation is much more terrifying. I understand that some people are scared of needles and that the idea of donating blood is anxiety provoking, but I can promise you that this is the better side of blood donation to be on. Being on the other side, the side where your life or the life of someone you love with all your heart depends on the generosity of people you have never met giving up 45 minutes of their time every 3 months is desperate and terrifying. Little Erin was on an ECMO machine for the last 2 weeks of her life as her heart and lungs were unable to work on their own. The blood flow through this machine was closely monitored 24 hours a day and Erin required regular blood tranfusions. She also received platelets on a regular basis. We were told that when Erin was better her blood group would be tested again as she had received so many tranfusions that it was possible it may have changed from that which she was born with. As you are aware, tragically Erin never did get better...but many, many patients who receive blood transfusions do and one of the reason they get better is because of the blood they received. Quite simply, it is because of blood donors.
You can find out more about blood donation, where to do it, the eligibility critieria and how it is used here http://www.blood.co.uk/index.asp. I hope you will consider doing something amazing today.