What is it like donating blood for the first time?

GIVING blood for the first time is a daunting experience for anyone.
Tyrone Times reporter Shauna Corr, with staff nurse Jacqueline Kyle at the Blood Donations centre in Dungannon. INMM3513-122ar.Tyrone Times reporter Shauna Corr, with staff nurse Jacqueline Kyle at the Blood Donations centre in Dungannon. INMM3513-122ar.
Tyrone Times reporter Shauna Corr, with staff nurse Jacqueline Kyle at the Blood Donations centre in Dungannon. INMM3513-122ar.

So when I turned up at the Presbyterian Church in Dungannon on Wednesday afternoon, be under no illusion, I was a little nervous.

But not about what you may think.

Having put all thoughts of the pain involved to the back of my head - this was to save a life after all - I was more concerned about whether they would even let me give blood having spent so much time working my way up to it.

A vegetarian, I didn’t even know whether I would have enough iron in my system,

But the process, all-in-all, was pretty painless.

The staff were very helpful and extremely appreciative of me even being there, I can’t count the number of times they thanked me for coming along.

First up I filled out a form, answering some questions on my health; if I had been anywhere with Malaria or whether I was likely to have been infected with HIV, Hepatitis or Syphilis.

Having declared a clean bill of health, they pricked my finger at the first station, tested my iron levels and passed me on.

The second nurse, after thanking me again, went through my form double checking the answers and then asked me how I felt.

Passing step two I was swiftly added to the line of donors and sat down for just two seconds before being whisked off to the bed of dread... just kidding.

The atmosphere was calm, it wasn’t that busy yet (I was number 4), and the nursing staff were very calm and reassuring.

After sitting on the bed, with my sister smugly perched at the end, my nurse ran through everything involved.

He explained how giving blood was good for the body as it allows us to make new blood, a bit like an oil change.

He said that within two days my fluid levels would be normal and in four weeks all of my blood cells will have been replenished, adding that giving blood was also like having an MOT.

The Blood Transfusion Service the three sample tubes they take for all manner of infections and let you know if you are in good health.

A blood pressure cuff was then attached to my arm, pumped up and the needle inserted.

That was it, the first finger prick actually hurt more!

While my blood was siphoned off into a bag under the bed, the nurse talked away, telling me stories of how people discovered they had leukaemia just through having blood.

He also told me that what I was doing will have saved a life within five days - this did make me feel good.

The actual giving of blood lasted a mere 7 minutes, having taken only three quarters of a pint, I had plenty of my 8-10 pints left.

I sat up on the bed, feeling a little dizzy I was ordered to lie down again.

But after a few minutes all was well and after a bandage that would make anyone think I’d lost an elbow was applied I was given the OK to head to the tea and biscuits table, but as a first timer was on order only to drink cold drinks for a few hours since your body heats up slightly during the process.

The chocolate fingers were worth every drop of blood I gave though.

The Northern Ireland Blood Transfusion Service, tour all over the north and will be at the Cornmill in Coalisland on September 13 between 2-4pm and 5.15-8pm.

They say only 6% of the eligible people donate blood but that most people are eligible.

You can give blood between the ages of 17-65 as a first timer and if you donate regularly there is no upper age limit.

To maintain the donor panel a minimum of 8000 new donors are needed each year.

The blood service say they need 8,000 new donors a year to help the 26,000 people who need blood through childbirth, cancer, anaemia or in emergency situations - though this accounts for just 8% of the blood needed.

What struck me when I went along was the different people who donated, and all for different reasons.

One man I spoke to did it as he nearly lost both his wife and daughter some years ago to diabetes, while teacher James Grimley (27) from Clonmore gives blood four times a year “because my father has always given blood and he encouraged me to give blood when I was younger and that is how it started,” he said.