Recently I decided to accompany my husband Jeff on a visit to the Winnipeg Blood Donor Clinic, at 777 William Ave.
My husband has donated blood 132 times. When I asked him why he does it, he replied with another question: "If I can help someone, why wouldn’t I give blood?"
I am not a big fan of needles, blood, or anything medical but I decided to shadow Jeff to discover the process of donating blood.
The first step is a finger prick to test the blood for hemoglobin. Next, if the hemoglobin level is adequate, potential donors complete a health questionnaire. The third step is a private screening. Here, temperature, pulse, and blood pressure are checked, and the questionnaire is revisited. This is a strictly private screening and I was not allowed to accompany Jeff through this step.
Finally, after Jeff was accepted as a donor, we proceeded to the collecting station. This is a clean, sunny room, lined with comfortable reclining beds. TVs are on and there is a board with word puzzles to keep the donors occupied. On this Saturday afternoon, all the beds were occupied,and an employee told us that 118 appointments were scheduled for the day. As I looked around the room, I saw donors of all ages, genders, sizes and nationalities.
Giving blood takes about 15 minutes. The needle used to collect the blood is new and sterile and generally there is no discomfort while giving. About 610 mL — or two cups — of blood are taken.
Apparently, my husband is a fast bleeder and he filled the bag in five minutes. When he was done, pressure and a bandage are applied to the insert site, and donors are asked to remain sitting for a few minutes before moving to the recovery area.
In recovery, donors are encouraged to have a beverage and something to eat. They are asked to sit for 10 minutes before continuing their days. As I watched Jeff consume his second chocolate covered donut, his motive for giving blood became more clear.
Madison informed us that the blood that Jeff had donated will be separated into plasma, red cells and platelets. His 133rd donation could potentially save three lives…not bad for a Saturday afternoon outing.
If, like Jeff, you would like to become a donor please contact Canadian Blood Services at 1-888-2-DONATE, or at www.blood.ca.
Joanne O’Leary is a community correspondent for Riverbend.