A Small Act Of Love – Preparations For Successful Blood Donations

For a very long time I have wanted to be a blood donor. I have always admired those who do it. It doesn’t take much time, and it is a wonderful selfless act.

As the story of my life goes…I was scared to do it. I have been very needle phobic for the majority of my life and so I spent endless number of years being a wimp and a chicken shit and not donating.

As my birthday drew ever nearer in 2017, I finally decided to “grow a a pair”. I visited the local donor clinic a few days before my birthday and tried a donation. Woefully ill prepared for it, I failed to donate. They just couldn’t find a vein to use. Actually…no, they found a vein, but the blood didn’t flow. They drew about 20ml from me before it stopped. I was going to fail at the first attempt. Yay!

The nurse I had said to me “Oh, you probably just aren’t a good candidate to be a donor. It happens.” In the past I’d have accepted that and just given up.

I wasn’t having it!

I waited a couple of months and tried in January, 2018. I had read up on the things I needed to do to prep. Rest the day before. Only have light exercise. Eat well. Have a good high energy meal the night before donation. Drink PLENTY of water…(and from subsequent experience, they mean fucking GALLONS of the stuff!) esp. in the 24 hours leading up to the donation.

Yes! The second attempt was a success! I was over the moon! The next one failed. My haemoglobin level was too low. For a woman, the HB level needs to be a 125g/l. A basic pinprick blood sample tests the HB level in your blood (and it hurts like a bastard! Hurts more than the donation itself – and this comes from a needle phobic chicken shit who STILL needs to look away and be distracted when that needle goes into the vein). If the sample sinks in a solution, you’re good to go. If it floats…chances are your HB is too low. They then do a more intrusive test (taking a full sample from a vein from the opposing arm to the one you normally donate from) to gain an accurate HB reading.

That second time my HB was at 120g/l so I was unable to donate. But, there were contributing factors. I had only finished menstruating prior and I had also been ill with a cold a few weeks before. I was naturally going to be low. Lesson learned.

The next one was a success.

The next one was a few days before Christmas last year. And not only did I fail the HB pinprick test…once I had the full blood test for the accurate HB level (which was 122g/l this time) – I fainted.

I went in despite having my period. It was Christmas. It’s such a critical time of year for them. I really, REALLY wanted to donate at Christmas. And despite being potentially (well…actually!) hampered by being “on cycle”, I felt I was doing everything I could to counter that. I was eating really well, and having iron rich food….but obviously not enough. Well, certainly not enough to balance what I was losing during my cycle.

Another big lesson learned. NO donations during menstruation! That now I know to be REALLY important.

So this time…I really did pull out ALL the stops. I started on Tuesday. Minimise coffee and tea intake…it hinders iron absorption. I limited myself to just ONE coffee and ONE tea per day. I went for a regular long walk but just took it a bit easier. I had been taking 10km walks leading up to it, but Tuesday’s was just under the 10km and slower paced.

I went shopping as well to get myself a supply of iron rich foods. On the list was tofu, sesame seeds, broccoli, chick peas, mushrooms, as well as some blueberries and limes (vitamin c helps with the iron absorption). Also some dark chocolate.

Tea that night was a tofu, purple sprouting broccoli and sesame seed teriyaki stir fry.

Wednesday was restful. Lots of good food. The one coffee in the morning was accompanied with a banana (my first morning coffee always is). Then I had frosted flakes and blueberries.

Snacks through the day. Some nuts. A few crackers and hummus. Tea that night was a bit more of a traditional British affair of (vegetarian) sausage rolls, mashed potato and peas (with some steamed edamame beans in with the peas).

The day before was light exercise again. I had a drumming lesson with Cherisse. Something that was going to keep the feel-good factor up and keep stress low. More general snacking in the afternoon. Tea was another stir-fry but this time it was mushrooms, edamame beans, chickpeas, cashews and vermicelli rice noodles. It made a ton and I ate it all. Best not to waste it! It wasn’t the most appetising meal I’ve ever had. And I really don’t much like fart balls (what I call chickpeas) unless they’ve been made into hummus, have been chopped up and turned into falafels, or made into paratha or somehow disguised some other way in the neighbours’ cooking (she hides the fart balls well. Lol)

The other nights I’d been having a glass of orange juice with the juice of a fresh lime added to it to help with the iron absorption. This night I decided to eat the lime. OH MY GOD! I had never eaten a fresh lime before. I thought it would be really nice, you know. I mean I looooooove lime, right? Key lime pie, lime cordial, lime jelly. Like…I love the taste of lime. SO I THOUGHT! Lol. I still do…I just…wasn’t prepared for how tart an actual fresh lime is! Mercifully I could have a bit of dark chocolate afterwards. Lol. Even then….the dark choc is not something I seek out. I like milk choc. You know…the chocolate that is sssooooo far removed from the Aztec beginnings of the consumption of chocolate in the western world as to be laughable.

Loads of water and an early night. A good night’s sleep is also required. My sleep ended up fitful but I got plenty of rest in and slept probably a solid 6 hours (they recommend 7-9 hours…and had I not been unexpectedly awoken around 2.30am, I probably would have easily hit the 7 hour mark). I felt rested at least.

A weak coffee with regular banana. Then frosted flakes and blueberries again. I had a brunch of crumpets with mushrooms lightly fried with some caramelised onion chutney served in a light creamy sauce. More nuts and one last serving of dark choc just prior to donation.

More water than you can shake a divining rod at and…SUCCESS! Thank god! I had never gone through the donation process so quickly! I was seen for the pre donation screening within a couple of minutes of arriving. The HB pinprick test I aced. Blood sample sunk like a stone. Yes! As the nurse pipetted my blood sample in, I said firmly “SINK!” She said (music to my ears) “It’s sinking down nicely. It’s good.” Then I was through and donating a couple of minutes after that.

So, I feel I have all that I need to know now to prep myself for many future successful donations.

EAT AS MUCH IRON RICH FOOD AS POSSIBLE – can easily be done even when vegan.
TAKE A MULTIVITAMIN WITH ADDED IRON SUPPLEMENT (possibly not necessary, but I have been and it has helped with my energy levels as well, even if I sleep like shit).
COMBINE INCREASED IRON INTAKE WITH VITAMIN C INTAKE TO HELP IRON ABSORPTION. (Mine was to have a 100% orange juice drink with the juice of a fresh lime added to it with my main evening meal.)

The final secret weapon was…I was DOUBLE fangirling! I was in my SM gold claddagh shirt (As seen in pic below – Oz tour details on the back – thank you for sending me this one, Ally ❤️) and I was wearing my Vans Bowie Space Oddity trainers. They helped immeasurably, I am sure.

Here’s to more successful donations! 👍🏻
And if you can, please consider donating blood. It is one of the most amazing things you can do and takes no time at all.

Leave a comment