Saturday August 6th, approximately 10am, TBLers stalked the Red Cross Blood Bank in daylight like vampires stalked their prey at night. As in the TBL tradition of lending a helping hand, we decided to lend a vein (or two) instead. For some of us, it was just another day at Red Cross, for others, it was their first experience of an often-overlooked act of kindness.
An average adult possesses approximately 5L of blood. In one donation, a person will donate 470mL (less than 10% of the total volume).
As each of us entered the clinic, we would be greeted by the smiling and ever-so-friendly receptionist, Mark; nodding and smiling back, he handed over a questionnaire sheet that needed to be filled out prior to going in for a pre-donation check-up. Skimming through the questions, one would have not thought much of it but on a closer and more thoughtful approach to them, you could be left with a cheeky smile (no spoilers). Handing back the questionnaire, you moved on to the preliminary, dare I say it, ‘appetizers’ as you wait to be called upon by one of the clinicians. Biscuit and a drink in hand, your name gets called out. Smiling, you put rest of the biscuit into your mouth and downed it with the cup of water.
There are 8 different blood types:
Which one are you?
- AB+, AB-
- A+, A-
- B+, B-
- O+, O-
Entering into a small room, you looked around as the examiner closes the door behind you. There was another door leading out the other side. It was neat, so to speaks, the cabinets were filled with paper, the computer was set to one side, and the only thing separating you from the other person was the distance of about 60cms. She looks at a sheet of paper on what you realize now was the questionnaire sheet. You swing your legs, back and forth, underneath you nervously.
“What’s your name?
You answer her with a smile.
“My name’s Pam, it’s really nice to meet you,” she smiles back.
She asks you a few more questions, which seems to all be a blur now, and you answered her the best you could.
“Well, that’s all well and good. Now I have to check your haemoglobin,” She slides on her wheelie chair, picks up some paraphernalia and slides back over.
You look at her quizzically.
“Ever done a blood glucose prick test?”
You either just A) nodded or B) shook your head.
“Well, it’s very similar. I’ll just prick your finger, draw a little blood and put it into a machine to check your haemoglobin level,” she grabs one of your hand and wipes it with alcohol. You feel a prick, sharp and numbing but afterwards, felt nothing.
“It’s above the minimum value for donation so you’re good to go,” She begins typing the information onto her computer and you watched her.
“Follow me,” she grabs your file and leads you out the other door.
Haemoglobin is a metalloprotein (protein containing metal) that is present in your red blood cell. It helps to carry oxygen from your lungs to your heart to be pumped around the body. In the case of anemia, you have low iron, leading to low haemoglobin.
You are greeted into a white and brightly lit room with recliner chairs set in rows. One of the nurses leads you over to one of the chair and you sit down, continuing to stare around the clinic.
“First time?” The nurse asks.
You nodded shifting slightly in the chair to find a more comfortable position.
The nurse moves away, leaving you wondering what was happening but it gave you more time to look around. A few seats away, a man that could past as your granddad sits with a book propped up in front of him. In another chair was a girl, probably only a little younger than you had an iPad in her hand.
“Squeeze this for me,” The nurse returned and hands you a stress ball which is actually rectangular. She also puts a pressure cuff over your arm (the one opposite to the one you write with).
She moves away again and you only begun to notice now that the place was bustling with activity. Nurses moved to and fro between patients, some patients were leaving, and some were being seated like you.
The nurse returns. This time she has a number of additional items she has brought with her, of which you can make as a bag and a tube line attached to the bag with the end of it connected to a needle. The needle looms over you, your hands begin sweating, you start getting the chills and your eyes dart from the needle to the nurse. Is she trying to kill you? You thought.
“You’ll feel a little jab okay. Look away if you want,” you stare at the TV in front of you; you can smell the alcohol fumes coming from your arm. Your eyes waver, daring yourself to look.
“It’s in,” the nurse announces, your eyes shift to your arm. You hadn’t felt a thing except for a tinge of the cold metal. “Seems like it won’t take you too long, your blood flow is fast.”
“All done,” the nurse smiles at you, ensuring the bandage around your arm was tight but not too tight. “Just head out that way, have a seat and have something to drink and eat.”
You meekly walked out and took a seat. You’re fed and watered.
As you take another sip of water, you make eye contact with the elderly man who was reading the book. He smiles at you, approval reflected in his eyes.
“One in three Australians will need blood at some stage during their lifetime – but only one in 30 currently give it.”
So why not join in on the TBL spirit and lend a vein, spare a pint of blood and possibly save a life.
By Pamela Vanichkitrungruang