Contributing to a bloody great cause

With the Irish Blood Transfusion Service having recently issued an urgent appeal for donations, Jessica Gorman provides a step-by-step guide on how students can give blood.

Do you want to do something to help those who are less fortunate? Are you too broke to give money and have no time to volunteer? Then you should seriously consider donating blood. Giving blood is an easy, safe, and cheap way to give something back to society, and you will almost definitely save a life. Donating blood sounds like a major task, but it’s quick, painless and you’ll be finished in less than forty-five minutes from start to finish.

You can only return every three months so it isn’t a big time commitment, but it is crucial for people in need of operations, pregnant women  and especially people who were in accidents and have subsequently experienced serious blood loss. Considering the amount of donated blood used in hospitals around Ireland every week, almost 3,000 donors are needed ‒ yet only 3% of those eligible actually take the time to donate.

If you have a couple of free hours around campus, it is super easy to become a donor. The first thing you have to do is ensure you drink  at least two litres of water and stay warm ‒ this helps to make veins more prominent and improves blood flow. You should also ensure that you have recently eaten a decent meal in order to reduce the risk of fainting. Finally, you can head over to the clinic which is conveniently situated on D’Olier Street.

Here, you’ll be required to fill out an incredibly comprehensive form and undergo a thorough interview to ensure your blood is suitable to be donated and that there is no risk of infecting the recipient. Obviously all information you impart is treated with 100% confidentiality. Your haemoglobin levels will then be tested with a capillary sample, i.e. a prick to your finger.  If this level is too low you will be offered an intravenous test, similar to when your doctor takes a sample for a blood test, as this can be more accurate. If this test is also negative you will not be permitted to give blood, as your iron levels may be too low or you may be too fatigued.

Finally, if you have made it through all the above you will be hooked up to a donation pack through a needle in your arm. You will be put lying down and closely monitored by a staff member. For a pint of blood to be donated, it takes approximately eight minutes. Following this, your blood is sent to a lab where it is tested to ensure it is safe to give to a patient and then sent on to a hospital. At this point you are expected to spend at least fifteen minutes in clinic canteen indulging in some refreshments before you are allowed to leave.

This may sound like a tedious process, but I firmly believe that when I see the little text a few weeks later, informing me that my blood has been used in a particular hospital to save a life, I realise that it was well worth the hour it took to give. Once you have donated for the first time, it is so much easier to go back and, if you’re especially nervous, team up with a friend to become your blood buddy and make a ritual out of donating together every three months.  

When I first donated it was one of the most overwhelming experiences of my life, but now it’s as like clockwork as a doctor’s appointment. If you don’t feel comfortable after giving it a try, that’s okay, but it really is not that scary, and it’s incredibly rewarding. Considering that the clinic is so close, why not go at least once? It’s may be minor for you, as a fit and healthy student, but it could literally save someone’s life.