Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Donating Blood

I first started donating blood when I was 18. I've always felt that since our body naturally makes and replenishes blood cells on its own, I should help someone who might need my blood to live. 

At the time, blood donation was only available at the BloodBank @ HSA, which was opposite Outram MRT, near Singapore General Hospital. I lived in Woodlands then (still do now), and though sometimes it seemed like a super troublesome process to travel almost an hour to get there, the motivation to help someone helped to motivate me.

I'm not a saint, but I'd like to think that I can help. Maybe it was learning about the fact that an average of 350 units of blood are needed daily to save lives, or maybe it was knowing that it was the least I could do to help people I don't know. (Then again, my packet of blood might have been used to save a relative, or someone dear to me, unknowingly.) 

I remember I would go regularly, at least twice a year (you can donate whole blood every 3 months), and each time I went, I would go home feeling very proud of myself. ^.^ You know, that feeling you get when you help the handicapped uncle buy tissue paper, or donate money to the visually-handicapped busker at the MRT? I always felt that way after a donation, and I must say it's a nice feeling to have. 

When I was 19, in my final year for my Optometry Diploma, most of our cohort went to Bintan for an Eyecare Mission to help prescribe and give out old glasses to the people who needed them. As Bintan was listed as an Malaria Endemic area, we had to take anti-malaria jabs before we could go. I later found out that because of these jabs, I was unable to donate blood for the next 3 years. 

Of course, it's been more than 3 years. I promptly forgot about blood donation until I stumbled upon my old Blood Donor card last year while packing my room. And the urge to go donate blood hit me again. At around the same time, my sister asked me about donating blood as she was interested in doing so too. We found out there was a BloodBank @ Woodlands so we went shortly after. 

My sister has really small veins, and after assessment with the doctors they found her unsuitable to donate blood as it would be difficult due to the size of her veins. They advised her to exercise her veins by squeezing stress balls, but she was disappointed nevertheless. Sis if you're reading this, don't despair okay, keep working on making those veins bigger! 

I went ahead with donating mine, and maybe because I was having my period at the time, or maybe it was because of my thick juicy vein (my blood pack was full in 5 minutes while others took 15 minutes!!!), I felt really giddy after the process. Nothing that their biscuits and milo provided couldn't solve of course! ;) I was okay after 10-15 minutes. ^.^

It's been a year since, and I thought I really wanted to do something meaningful this year for Xmas. 

I don't have a million dollars to donate to charity, but I do have blood I can spare. We have an average of 4-5 litres of blood in us, and each donation only takes 450ml of our blood, which replaces itself in 3 days. I've seen bloody road accidents, I know how much blood might be lost in an operation, and I know there are people out there who need blood transfusions just to make it through the next hour. If I can help them go through this difficult just so they can spend another festive season with their families, why not? =D

Mint was my companion for the day. Colin was there too. 

Neither of them has donated blood before, and I'm trying to get them to start. Lol. Colin faints when he sees blood. Or people getting injected. Or something. Mint told me there was this once when she was sick and Colin went with her to the doctor, and while Mint was having her injection Colin fainted. And got into seizures. So that left the doctor with a needle in Mint's arm and an extra patient on the floor with no nurse to help him and he had to shout for one. Jin bo eng. Lol. O.O

BUT when I asked Colin he said he wasn't afraid of blood or injections, but he can't see other people bleed large amounts of blood or get injections cos he will just faint. Like, he will actually want to see, so he's not afraid right, but he just faints. And he doesn't know why. Any doctors here want to explain this to me?

Anyway Colin couldn't donate even if he wanted to cos he's sick and on meds. If you're sick or on meds you shouldn't donate, cos your blood's going to be rejected anyway la. 

Plus, both of them went to Batam recently. Indonesia is considered a malaria endemic area, so you need to be back for at least 4 months before they can clear you for blood donation. Because some infections can be transmitted via blood, and some symptoms just don't show, they need to make sure the blood you are donating is safe. So be honest in telling them if you have travelled recently.

If you have been overseas recently and wish to donate blood I suggest you go through this list of places first, else you might just make a wasted trip.

Here is also a list of other reasons when you should not donate, e.g. if you have Diabetes, on TCM, just pierced your ears...etc. There is a waiting period before you can donate, so go through the list. =)

How Does the Procedure Go? 
I recommend going on weekdays so there won't be a queue and you can go and leave within half an hour. You'd be surprised how many kind-hearted people there are during weekends. ^.^

When you arrive you will be given a questionnaire to fill up. This checks if you have been overseas, whether or not you have been ill, or whether you have just given birth or had any injections done lately. You are required to fill up this form as accurately as possible else legal action may be taken against you. After all, we want to help people, not indirectly harm them, right? 

As this form is Private and Confidential, do not fill up this form with a friend/bf/spouse watching. Because some questions can be really very personal, it can get very awkward. Don't say I didn't warn you. But rest assured your information will not be disclosed to anyone other than the doctor assessing you. =)

Next your blood will be tested for blood type, as well as if you have sufficient haemoglobin/red blood cell count. 

Once that is done you will be called into the donation room. Your skin will be disinfected and prepped, and the first injection you will get is the anaesthetic. This numbs the area where they will extract the blood so it doesn't hurt. 

When I say blood extraction I just mean where the blood will flow into the needle. There is no suction or physical drawing of blood so don't be too worried if it will hurt. Once the needle goes into your vein the blood will flow naturally, so you won't really feel anything. ^.^

You saw 2 bags of blood right? A small one that's dangling and a big one on the floor. The big one is the one they will use for patients who need it, and they will take the blood from the small pack for testing, to see if your blood is safe for use.

The needle head is covered so you won't faint upon seeing it. Lol. 

This was the instavid I posted not the day I went for my donation. For more live and immediate updates (cos I update my blog too slowly, I know), you can follow me on Instagram ok? Thanks! 
Oh do you know you can donate blood for yourself? If you are expecting a major surgery in the coming weeks, you can arrange to donate blood for yourself a few weeks to 3 days before your op. A fee is chargeable for such donations though, but if you have a rare blood type, this is a wise option to make. Also, getting your own blood from yourself is always safer, and getting any allergic reaction is minimal. This blood can be stored for up to 5 weeks. 

Also, you can opt to donate part of your blood like just the platelets or plasma. This is known as *apheresis. Because you can only donate whole blood every 3 months, some people opt to go for apheresis, for which you can go every month so that makes 12 donations a year! 

*P.S. Apheresis donation is only available at Bloodbank@HSA

The process is slightly longer, but sometimes they need part of your blood instead of the whole thing, depending on your blood type. You can check here for what is needed for your blood type at the moment.

During the blood extraction process you will be given a stress ball to squeeze to stimulate blood flow to your vein. The first time I was given this I dared not squeeze cos I was afraid my vein would burst. Lol. Of course there was no cause for worry. I was just being paranoid. Haha!

Like I mentioned, most people take about 15 minutes to fill up the blood pack. But if you're like me and have super good blood flow and a thick juicy vein, you should be done in less than 10 minutes. =D

After you're done they'll wrap your arm with neon-coloured bandages for the injection spot so you can proudly walk around with it and people will know you've done a good deed. Lol. 

Have some milo, biscuits, soy bean, or whatever that's provided on the counter before you go so you have some sugar in your body and won't feel so faint after. And you're done! Simple right?

Why not do something meaningful this Christmas and donate blood too? You can start as young as 16 years old. Parental consent is needed for donors below 18 - if your parents are unable to go with you, you can download the consent form here. Of course, it would be great if you can bring them along and do the good deed as a family!

It's not too much to give, (free of charge!) just a mere 30 minutes to an hour of your time, and you can help save a life. A gift of life, to perhaps help someone spend another Christmas or New Year with their families, is more meaningful than any material gift you can give anyone, so give it some thought. ;)

Ready do donate blood? You can save time on queueing by making an appointment here under "Appointment Booking" (Singpass is required). Otherwise, just walk in like I did. 

Merry Christmas guys!!! XOXO


  1. i allways wanted to donate blood, but i can't because sometimes i'm anemic... =( and i have other blood problems so i should not donate. but i'm happy that on the other sido of the earth somebody thinks like me =D
    "if i was sick and needing for blood, i would like somebody to donate for me" ^^