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08 June 2011

Ask MeCha: giving blood [More:]O Metachat, may I ask advice? A few months ago I went along for my first blood donation session, and it was a complete failure. Now I'm due to go back for another go, and I wonder if I can influence the outcome.

Basically they inserted the needle, it hurt quite a bit, then I lay there for a while and very little came out. They gave up and sent me home, saying that I should wait the regulation 16 weeks before donating again, since some came out.

I'm a short, mildly overweight woman, early 30s, no health problems, not pregnant, blood pressure tends to run low. Baseline exercise 3 miles walking per day, sometimes more. Diet moderately varied and healthy and I've lost quite a bit of weight recently.

So, metachat, do any of you know about blood donation and how I might be able to do it successfully?
Argh, I feel your pain. The same thing has happened to me multiple times. I have deep/hard to stick/tiny veins, low blood pressure, and I seem to clot up easily.

There are two things that might improve the situation: hydration and warmth. That is, hydrate like crazy for at least a few days before and the day of your donation. Cut back on the caffeine if you drink it, and drink a LOT of water. Don't let yourself get cold, as that can constrict the blood vessels; bring a blanket or wrap along in case the air conditioning is turned up high. Also mention the issue to the phlebotomist going in, so that he/she can be extra-careful about the needle placement.

This hasn't been 100% successful for me, but it's helped.
posted by Knicke 08 June | 14:49
My only advice would be to make sure you are well hydrated before you go.
posted by gaspode 08 June | 14:49
oh, jinx!
posted by gaspode 08 June | 14:50
Yes, I was going to say hydrate as well. It sounds like it wasn't a good stick. The needle was not inserted properly. Did they try to stick you more than once?
posted by LoriFLA 08 June | 14:56
What they said. I have this problem all the time, to the point that I don't actually donate blood anymore, bad as that makes me feel. Lots of noncaffeinated liquids for a couple days prior and bring a shawl to ward against air conditioning in the room. Tell them you have issues with this and pump the hell out of the little hand-squeezy thing they give you.
posted by crush-onastick 08 June | 14:56
I used to donate blood all of the time. The Red Cross would call me and remind me when it was my time to come in. I have O neg blood -- the universal donor. I donated many, many times. I stopped when I found out they sold blood to other states. This shouldn't have bothered me too much. People out of state are people too. We have a bank, Central Florida blood bank, that stays local. My sister has hemochromatosis and donates blood every four weeks to treat her disease. The last time she was there she texted me and told me I should get down there and donate because they are desperate. I'm kind of over donating though. I'm a Grinch.
posted by LoriFLA 08 June | 15:05
Another with the hydration plus bad stick. Do tell them ahead of time you had a hard time last time, so they can take extra steps to find a good vein. The pumping seems to help, plus it's pleasantly distracting.
posted by Miko 08 June | 15:06
Do they give you a wooden dowel or something else to squeeze? I always find that I'm squeezing it quite firmly, then releasing, over and over. I suspect that has something to do with how quickly I fill up the bag --- mostly because once when my donation attendant had walked away for a moment, she came hustling back urging me "Whoa! Stop squeezing!" so she could get the bag off without overflowing.

I am, in the words of a Red Cross donation staffer, "a gusher" (meaning I fill up the bag much faster than they ever expect) and my right-arm vein is, as my oral surgeon recently observed, "one great big pipe," so I don't know how much help this is, but it's a thought.
posted by Elsa 08 June | 15:08
I used to donate blood all of the time. The Red Cross would call me and remind me when it was my time to come in

Me, too! I loved that. But when I had a cluster of unrelated health issues (and several donation attempts in a row where I failed the hematocrit test; I'm never far above the minimum, and sometimes I'm jusssssst below it) and general not-feeling-great-itude, I asked them to take me off the list for a while.

Thanks for posting this, altolinguistic. It's reminded me to see if I can start donating again.
posted by Elsa 08 June | 15:14
I haven't given blood in a long, long time- I was ineligible for a year after our Western Caribbean cruise in 2007, and that put me out of the habit. Plus, I really really hate the iron test, where they stab your finger. I'm fine with the needle in my arm, but the finger puncture really gets me.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero 08 June | 15:22
Thanks everyone! It didn't occur to me that it might be a bad stick, as I assumed the people from the UK blood service did this day in, day out so would be good at it. I was a bit of a nightmare to stick when I had surgery a few years ago, plus they had terrible trouble getting my blood pressure back up to viable-human levels. So I guess it's not surprising that I might have trouble donating.

My appointment is on Friday so I'll drink loads of water and stay warm between now and then. It'd be good to have a success, to raise my confidence a bit.

LoriFLA: part of my reason for donating is that mr alto has a similar condition to your sister (he has polycythemia), and the haematologists take a pint from him every 6 weeks. In this country they're not allowed to use his blood, though, hence my wish to be the household blood donor.
posted by altolinguistic 08 June | 15:23
alto, you're a good person. Good luck.

I think they can use parts of my sister's blood, or use it if certain values are within acceptable limits. I'm not completely certain.

Another reason why I haven't been to give blood lately is because it's on a road I never travel and about 20 or 30 minute drive. I can't be bothered to drive too far if I don't have to.
posted by LoriFLA 08 June | 15:30
Pretty much what everyone else said. Tell them that you had a bad experience and that you really want their best person with a needle. It's really an art and some of the nurses are much better than others.

I give blood every time I'm up which is only three times a year since I give double red cells but my right arm still looks like Keith Richards.
posted by octothorpe 08 June | 15:59
I have been passed off the to "good" sticker several times before. I'm a fairly slender woman with really kickass veins, but something about my presentation makes them think I might be a difficult stick. Hydration is key, and letting them know you had a tough time before might prompt them to hand you over to the vein-whisperer (and every donation center has one).

I love donating blood. I have a weirdly high hematocrit, and I like impressing the techs. I also like the enforced resting in the middle of the day, and watching the blood flow out of my arm into the bag. And then snacks! At my hospital (the one where I work), the same elderly volunteer always oversees the canteen. He keeps us well stocked in apple juice, cheese cubes and Oreos.
posted by jeoc 08 June | 19:14
The snack table at the hospital looks REALLY awesome, I'm tempted to give just for the snacks!
posted by ThePinkSuperhero 08 June | 20:49
If you ever find yourself in High Point, NC, we've got the best damn blood-donatin canteen! And if the volunteer can't make it, the CEO pinch-hits.
posted by jeoc 08 June | 21:24
Update: this time it worked! The person taking the blood had "senior" on her badge, and she tried my (dominant) right arm, which had a good vein. I was warm, and absolutely awash with water. Thanks for all the advice and nice words.
posted by altolinguistic 10 June | 10:37
Yay! So glad you could do it!
posted by Elsa 10 June | 17:21
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