Growing up, my mum would take me along with her when she went to give blood. 

I quite liked going, because the kind staff would always let me have juice and a biscuit while my mum donated. But I also disliked going, because I had a needle phobia.

When I was 11 years old, I braved getting my ears pierced, and resolved that if I could do it for something cosmetic, I could do it to save a life. 

So, as soon as I turned 17, I signed up to the blood donor register, and went along to my first session a few months later.

Was I nervous? Yes. Was it worth being nervous about? No.

For what essentially felt like a scratch, and was over really quite quickly, I came away feeling as though I had done a good deed, and knowing that I had given someone some hope, a chance.

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Here’s what to expect (this is based on my experience of large-scale donation sessions only, and will vary depending on where and when you donate):

  • You arrive (you can pre-register online before attending your appointment which saves time!), and you are handed a form to fill out. This has a standard list of questions regarding your healthy and lifestyle, and takes a few minutes to complete. 
  • Once you have handed that in, you wait to be called into a booth to have a chat with a nurse. They go through your form and check you;re all ok to donate. At the end of the day, the donors safely always take priority and sometimes there can be small reasons why that day is not your day! 
  • The nurse will prick your finger to get a small blood sample to check your iron levels. If they’re high enough you’re good to go and will be taken to a donation bed.
  • Your arm will be cleaned and a small needle inserted. Then you just sit there for ten minutes or so until the donation is complete. You can bring a book or your phone if you need a distraction. I often end up chatting to the nurses!

It turns out, I don’t have very prominent surface veins in my arms, so that first time the nurse struggled to get a full donation from me. I remember being disappointed, upset almost. I so wanted to help. But it only made me more determined, and when I returned at the next session, they tried the other arm.

I have been a blood donor ever since, including while I was away at university and no longer had my mum there, spurring me on. I have gone with friends for their first times, and have promoted the cause on social media. 

A member of my wider family went through the experience of blood cancer, sadly losing his fight. And I have known of so many others for whom blood transfusions have either saved their life, or given them precious months with their loved ones they wouldn’t have had otherwise.

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That less than half an hour of my time, once every few months, is like gold dust. One pint of blood can save up to three lives, and it doesn’t matter whether you have the most needed blood types, or the very rarest, every contribution is appreciated.

My blood donation journey hasn’t been completely plain-sailing. At one session, I learned I was mildly anemic (which I was thankfully able to rectify in just a few months). At another, I queued for  a long time because it was a drop-in session, only to be told that the eczema on my arm would prevent the donation. 

But I don’t regret any of those trips. Nothing lost, and I was able to address the issues to allow me to return. 

Due to various things - particularly moving around - it’s been longer than I like since my last donation. So, as National Blood Donation Day was earlier this week (June 14), I have taken the opportunity to get booked in. Would you consider doing the same?

To find out more about Blood Donation in England, visit:

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