Donating Blood For the First Time: It was Seamless

By Maria Marabito

Maria Maribito is a Red Cross Communications volunteer. Photo courtesy of Maria Marabito.

I have always wanted to donate blood but kept pushing it off. In all honesty, I am prone to passing out and I was afraid of what donating a pint of blood would do to me. I imagined dropping to the floor at the donation area (how embarrassing) or losing consciousness in the car ride home. However, when I heard about the national emergency blood shortage, I decided now was the time to make the leap.

I downloaded the Red Cross Blood Donation app on my phone and made an appointment closest to me. I chose around lunchtime since I figured I had enough time to get plenty of fluids and food into me by then. The app said to drink plenty of fluids before, eat nutritious foods and ideally take an iron supplement. I followed these instructions to the T for the most part (I kind of forgot about the iron until the two days leading up to my appointment). My blood donation center ended up being just 15 minutes away. I have passed it dozens of times and never knew it was there.

When I arrived, the donation center was quite busy. I checked in on the front desk laptop and waited for my name to be called. About 15 minutes later, I was called back and brought into a private room. The Red Cross worker was very nice and welcoming and reassured me when I told her I was new to donating. She asked me some questions about my health, took my blood pressure and pricked my finger to test my iron levels. Initially, my levels were too low to give blood. However, she said the first time sometimes comes out lower than it actually is and she pricked me again. The second test was high enough to allow me to donate (since then, I have been taking iron supplements daily to keep my levels high).

Once I was deemed healthy enough to donate that day, we went out of the room and around the corner to a bed/table, the kind you find in a doctor’s office. The Red Cross worker prepared the station for me and had me lie down. She wrapped a rubber ribbon around the top of my arm to find a vein. She also gave me some foam to squeeze softly and repeatedly as she inserted the needle into my arm. It pinched, but once in, it was painless. I kept squeezing the foam for the entire duration, which ended up not being that long. I gave a unit of blood within minutes in addition to a few extra vials for testing purposes. I felt a little dizzy after so the worker said to lie down for a little while longer. She was extremely attentive and gave me as much time as I needed. She insisted I have a juice box and something to eat from the many snack options available. I sat for a little while longer but overall felt well and the dizziness went away very quickly. I even went home with a Red Cross t-shirt.

The entire process was seamless and much quicker than I expected. It felt very rewarding to be able to donate my blood to help people who really need it. I plan on donating consistently from now on. And if I had not donated, I would never have known my real blood type. My entire life, I thought I was A+ but turns out I am not!

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