By Amanda Chaney DNP, APRN, FAANP, AF-AASLD
Many of us want to donate blood. We know it is a good thing to do and frequently hear stories of how someone’s life was saved because of a blood donation, but what is it like to donate blood? Let me tell you about my first experience.
When I was 15 years old, there was a blood drive at my school. I have always wanted to help people, and I thought, “Well, here is my opportunity to do something for others that will really mean something.” I walked into the mobile blood donation center and sat down to answer questions about my medical history. I was good to go! Then, the nurse came to me and explained the procedure, which included a needle poke and having the blood go through the tubing and into a bag.
Then, it happened! As I was donating blood, I got woozy and told the nurse, “I don’t feel so good.” She reassured me and said, “It’s ok. This happens all the time.” She gave me some orange juice and crackers. I started feeling better and, before I knew it, we were done. I thought, “That’s it? I thought there would be much more to it than this.” After that, I continued to donate blood every few months until I finally was part of the “gallon club,” which is a milestone in the blood donation world. It felt good to be a part of something that helped people.
Fast forward about 10 years, and I was starting my role as a nurse practitioner (NP) in a hospital liver transplant department. As first assistant to the surgeon, I was excited to be part of the team performing these life-saving surgeries. I remember one case being touch-and-go. The process of removing a cirrhotic liver is time consuming, and quite frankly, bloody. These patients have issues with their clotting factors, as well as frequently being thrombocytopenic, which makes bleeding much more likely and difficult to control. This patient was given 90 units of packed red blood cells – yes, I said 90. Amazingly, he survived.
Now, I have been practicing in the liver transplant field for the past 17 years. I think back to the times when I donated blood as a teenager and wonder who got those transfusions. What were their stories? I will never know, but I do know my blood helped someone — many someones.
We in the surgical world cannot do what we do without blood donations. We count on you to help us save lives. Blood donation pointers:
- Drink plenty of water 24 hours before and after donation.
- Do not donate blood on an empty stomach.
- Avoid alcohol for 24 hours before and after donation.
- Avoid lifting heavy items and engaging in rigorous exercise for 24 hours after the donation.
- Eat iron-rich foods a few days leading up to your blood donation. Your iron levels must be above the minimum required to donate blood.
January is National Blood Donor Awareness Month and serves as an annual reminder of the ongoing need for blood and platelets. Your NP or other health care provider can answer any questions you may have about the blood donation process and benefits. Give the gift of life! Your blood donation could save the life of someone you love.