Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Donating Blood

This Rochester experience is a bit different from others I've written about -- even though it does involve eating!

If I had to sum up my blood donation experience with one word, it would be "easy." It was easy to make the appointment online, easy to slightly change the scheduled time (online) when I needed to, and easy to prepare for and go through with the actual donation. It made me wonder why I had waited ten years (oops) since the last time I gave blood.

It's also easy to find out if you're among the 60 percent of Americans eligible to donate blood -- just check the Red Cross website. If you make an appointment, you'll be told how to prepare, too -- I made sure to drink more water than usual during the 24 hours leading up to my donation and didn't eat any high-fat foods that morning (because doing that can interfere with a certain test they may have to perform later on your blood donation).

I got to the Red Cross building on Prince Street a few minutes before my appointment on a recent Saturday morning, checked in, and showed my ID. A volunteer gave me a binder of information to read as well as a coupon for a free container of Friendly's ice cream (nice bonus), and then a staff person took me to a small room. She took my pulse, checked my blood pressure, and pricked my finger to get a bit of blood to check the iron level. Next, she left the room while I used her laptop to answer 50 questions about my health, which were very easy and didn't take long.

Then she directed me to a very comfy recliner-type chair in the donation area. She cleaned my arm, found a good vein, and put the needle in, which honestly only caused me a little pain. When I was "hooked up" to everything, I had to squeeze a little foam ball for five counts and then relax for five counts, and the Red Cross person stayed close by and made sure I was feeling OK. I had planned to use my phone to go online while I waited, but the counting kept my brain busy enough!

About ten or fifteen minutes later, I was done! I had to hold up my arm for a couple minutes to stop any bleeding, and then the staff person bandaged my arm with gauze and tape and sent me to the snack area. They had lots of sugary and salty snacks to choose from, and I picked the chocolate one, of course -- can't pass up Oreos. The very friendly volunteer got me a can of juice and made conversation with me and the other donor at the table. She showed me a little book of facts about giving blood -- that's where I learned the 60 percent figure. Unfortunately, just 5 percent of people donate each year.

The whole process took about an hour, and I hope to go back as soon as I'm eligible to donate again. (You're required to wait 56 days between whole-blood donations). How about you?

TIP: You can schedule an appointment online. If you donate before the end of this month, you'll get a carton of ice cream like I did, according to the website.

NEARBY: The Memorial Art Gallery, George Eastman House, and more.

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