It is one of life’s little ironies that, while I am an enthusiastic and in fact somewhat evangelical advocate of blood donation, I am completely crap at giving blood myself.
I have teeny-tiny wizened little spidery veins that like to hide. This makes even routine blood samples a torture. Also, I am quite scared of needles – now. I was one of those horrible children who can watch the needle go in when they have an injection, but somehow I grew up into a big wuss. When I had my injections for going to China they had to lie me down with my feet above my head. I nearly fainted when I had my first filling.
I gave blood a few times while at St Andrews. The first couple were not too bad, but then the problems started. It would take multiple attempts to get the needle in. Then, once in, my blood would stubbornly refuse to come out at any decent speed. Finally, a nurse told me that really, I didn’t have to try. I stopped for a few years.
I tried again when I moved down to Malvern and there was blood donation at my workplace (yeah, anything to leave my desk for a while). I gave a couple of distinctly mediocre donations. I can’t remember the outcome, but given that the donation sessions were held in a chilly air-conditioned room, I doubt that they were particularly good.
Another 7 or 8 years went past. Last December, we had the bad news that one of my colleagues had stomach cancer (sadly, he died this summer). I was having the what-can-I-do feeling and decided to try the blood donation thing again. I slipped and slid my way down to Rosyth in the terrible snow and ice but was delayed at the first hurdle: because I’d been to China I had to have a blood test for malaria before I donated.
Finally I got the news back that the test was clear. I turned up at the Dunfermline blood donation session all prepared. I was nice and warm and I’d drunk endless pints of water to make sure I was super-hydrated. It was great! Well, I was kind of pathetic, but the process was great. The nurse took great care to pump up my arms (both of them!) before selecting the least-worst vein and getting the needle in perfectly. The bruise was about the size of a freckle – amazing. And I got all the blood given on time.
Brilliant, I thought. I’ve cracked this now. Half a dozen layers of clothing and a non-stop liquid supply and I’m golden.
I got up this morning and hydrated like crazy. Put on leggings under my jeans and two T-shirts under a big jumper under a down jacket. Fleecy hat. Double-layered mittens. I was boiling.
I filled in my form feeling much less trepidation than last time. The Edinburgh donation centre freaked me out a wee bit because other people’s blood bags are much more obvious than in other places I’ve been. But still, not too bad mentally.
Then they sat me down with my rolled-up arm under a cool fan and I thought, hmm, we’re in trouble here.
By the time the nurse came to stab me, my veins had totally gone into hiding (or maybe they were already there anyway). She tried a couple of times but the flow was very slow. Even with pumping my hand, I couldn’t make 100ml in the first 5 minutes, so I was never going to make the total in time. The guy beside me, who presumably has decent veins, had his whole donation done in that time.
So, I’m kind of frustrated. I want to do this, but my body is not cooperating. Or, worse, it is just sporadically cooperative, so that I get all excited and then it lets me down again. Grrr.
If you are reading this, and have decent veins and no conditions that disqualify you, and it’s more than 14 weeks since your last donation, please could you pop down to the blood donor centre on my behalf? I’d like to know that someone actually gave the blood that I failed to give!