Blood Donation: A First Timer’s Guide
Ashley Jowett
/ Categories: WELLNESS, 2022

Blood Donation: A First Timer’s Guide

If you are thinking of donating blood for the first time, thank you. Blood is a critical resource for area patients, and at times of blood shortage, like now, we need every eligible blood donor to contribute. To follow through with your plan, it may be helpful to know what to expect.

Step 1: The first thing to do is to go to https://www.redcrossblood.org/, search for a drive in your area. Choose the date and location that works for you and click “see times.” Click “blood” next to the time that fits in your schedule. (Once you get a little more experience, you may choose to donate Power Red, where your blood is filtered to extract extra red blood cells.) From there, it is easy to create an account to make your appointment.

Your account and the Red Cross Blood app are very helpful tools. They will allow you to schedule future appointments quickly and easily from your computer or phone. They also provide an electronic blood donor card, which includes your blood type; access to the biometric data the drive will collect; and a record of your donation history.

Step 2: In the few days before your appointment, eat iron-rich foods, like red meat, fish, poultry, beans, spinach, and foods fortified with iron, like cereals or raisins. Drink plenty of fluids and get a good night’s sleep.

Step 3: When you arrive to your appointment, you will sign in, show an ID, and answer a few quick questions. The health history can be completed online in advance or in a private interview. It is a lot of questions, to be honest, but it helps ensure that your blood is safe to share. Then, the staff will conduct a mini-physical, including a blood pressure check and a check of your iron levels.

Step 4: If you’ve ever had a blood test, you know what a blood draw is like. You will be seated comfortably while the friendly and skilled technicians complete all of the steps necessary to collect a pint of blood. They provide great directions and ensure that you are as comfortable as possible. It takes about 10 minutes, tops.

Step 5: When the donation is complete, they will offer you a snack and a beverage. You are invited to sit and relax for 10 – 15 minutes. This is especially recommended for first-time donors, especially for those who are alone. Lightheadedness is somewhat rare among blood donors, but it can happen. It is best to take the time until you know how your body responds.

For the rest of the day, you’re advised not to work out or do any heavy lifting. By the next day, you should be ready to resume all normal activities. In fact, your blood volume is typically replaced within 24 hours. Red blood cells take about 4 – 6 weeks to jump back up to normal levels, which is why you won’t be able to give blood again for 8 weeks.

You will receive lots of thanks from the staff at the blood drive, and local medical professionals will appreciate having the blood they need to help their patients. No one will be more grateful than the recipient of your blood. For them, it could be lifesaving.

Angela Theiss, MD, is a pathologist at Southwestern Vermont Medical Center, part of Southwestern Vermont Health Care, in Bennington. She is a regular blood donor.

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