By: Mint Suetrong, Contributing Writer
Blood is vital for the survival of a human being. Hemorrhage (death due to blood loss) has been projected to claim the lives of 8 million people in 2020 alone.  Components of blood such as red blood cells, plasma and platelets are used in various ways to treat patients. In England, around two thirds of all blood donated is used to treat patients with anaemia, cancer and blood disorders while nearly a third is used in urgent situations such as surgery or childbirth.  Although the increased efficiency in blood collection has helped, new donors are always in high demand to ensure that there is an adequate supply of blood.
For as long as I can remember, blood donation has always been something I have wanted to do. However, as I am currently writing this article, I am not eligible to donate blood yet.
Here are some requirements which must be fulfilled for me to donate blood in Thailand.
Must be at least 17 years old. (If you are 17, you must have a letter of parental consent)
Must weigh at least 45 kg (99.2 lbs)
Must be feeling well and can carry out day-to-day activities without feeling fatigued, sleep deprived or under the influence of alcohol or other recreational drugs.
Must have a blood pressure of less than 160/100.
Must not have had a piercing, tattoo or acupuncture within 4 months before donating blood.
Must not be menstruating, pregnant or breastfeeding.
Must not have given birth or have had an abortion 6 months prior to donating blood.
Must get at least 5 hours of sleep.
The list goes on and on, so be sure that you take a close look of the list beforehand.
Personally, donating blood is as much of an emotional accomplishment as a physical accomplishment. As far as I can remember, my relationship with needles has always been a rocky one. I got better at enduring it, eventually, but it is still a difficult process nonetheless. Despite the months, even years, of knowing I wanted to donate blood, I never considered the actual process in which I would have a needle stuck into my arm for an extended period of time. Needless to say I had a mini panic attack in the morning.
In preparations for donating blood, I have been consistently taking iron supplements twice a day to ensure that I have an adequate supply of red blood cells due to my limited consumption of red meat. I have also been eating much more to ensure that my weight stays above the minimum requirement. My blood pressure is generally quite low (9 times out of 10, my BP would be below 90/60), so the pressure (I apologise for this lame pun) was to make sure my blood pressure was high enough for the donation.
Preparations on the day of the blood donation.
Drink lots of water. It is important to be well hydrated when donating blood as much of your blood is made of water. You will also be losing much of that water through using the bathroom out of nervousness, so it’s better to stock yourself up, totally not speaking from personal experience, of course not. On the more logical side of things, the loss of fluid when donating blood can result in a drop in your blood pressure which may lead to dizziness or fainting. This was especially crucial for me as my blood pressure is already normally very low.
Have a well balanced meal. Not only will it help stabilize your blood pressure, it will also provide your body with healthy nutrients required to replenish your blood cells. Consume food rich in iron like red meat, beans, or fortified cereal (or simply take iron tablets) alongside adequate Vitamin C, commonly found in citrus and brussel sprouts.  Avoid caffeine and alcohol.
Chronological order of events that happened at the blood donations place.
Had to sign 2 forms: the first was a checklist for my qualifications to donate blood and my identification while the second was a COVID-19 screening. As I was donating blood on the day I turned 17, which was the first day that I would ever be eligible to donate blood, my dad had to sign an additional parental consent form. (signing forms pic)
Measured my blood pressure. Thank the heavens, it was 108/63; my blood pressure was somehow normal for once. My heart rate was over a hundred, though. Don’t blame me, I was nervous. (measuring BP pic)
Blood test. The staff performed a finger prick test to identify my blood type which was done by mixing small droplets of my blood with antigen-identifying solutions. According to the staff and my parents, this would be the most painful process of all. Leave it to my adrenaline rush as it was not actually that bad, though my finger was a bit sore afterwards. The results came back as O+, and my haemoglobin level was 14.6 g/dl which is great considering I do not consume red meat. The healthy range of 12.0-15.5 g/dl for women and 13.5-17.5 g/dl for men.  (blood test pic)
Collected my blood bag. Due to my low weight (I was 45.5kg on the day of the donation and the minimum was 45kg) and that this was my first time donating blood, I was given a small bag of 350 cc. At this station, I was also given my very own blood donor card and a pin! This was the last step before the actual blood drawing process. (collecting blood bag pic)
Sat and tried to calm myself down. To be completely honest with you, I was totally freaking out. Fortunately, the chairs there were extremely comfortable, the scenery was astounding and I was with two of the calmest, most reliable people in my life which helped ease my anxiousness. It was well too late to back out now anyways. (poking prep pic)
The actual process of donating blood. It was surprisingly painless. The only part that bothered me was how I could feel the needle in my skin, but that was all. The staff also tried to get me to squeeze the ball to help the blood flow better, but since I was already tense due to nervousness, it actually made the blood flow slower so we just agreed to let my body do its thing. It took longer than expected, especially for such a small bag, but I did not faint so it was a success! (donating blood pic 1) (donating blood pic 2) (blood bag)
The aftermath. Donating blood is much easier than how I expected it to be. I am incredibly grateful that I was able to make a quick recovery without feeling lightheaded, though I suspect that it was the lasting effects of my adrenaline rush. Miraculously, I did not faint nor cry.
I would 10000% recommend you to donate blood if you are eligible for it. There really is no significant pain and you receive a refreshing cup of Hale’s Blue Boy (a Thai sweet drink) afterwards. Who wouldn’t want to donate blood? Trigger warning: the video attached captured the staff adjusting the needle. This was probably the most painful part of the whole blood donation process, and even then, it only hurts for a split second. (blood donation vid)
Final words from the writer:
While I understand that some may have never considered the idea of blood, I highly recommend that you may want to give it a thought as it really is a fulfilling experience. This is the easiest and most effective way to save someone’s life. For the most part, donating blood is highly accessible. If you are unsure, try giving your local hospital a call to see if they offer this service.
I am sure that we all have kind intentions to help fellow friends in need, so grab your close friend or family members and head to your local hospital for this heartwarming bonding activity. My friend and I have already made plans to come back when he turns 17. See you in September, Ken.
Link to cover image: https://pin.it/6QAKTyl