[AMA] I've Completed 50 Blood Donations, Ask Me Anything!

I always enjoy the AMAs but was never sure about what I could contribute. Then I recently completed my 50th blood donation and thought it might be a fun topic.

I've been donating for just over 15 years (since I turned 18) and I think it's a relatively quick and easy thing to do that can really help people.

Anyone interested in donating can discuss it here or feel free to head to https://www.donateblood.com.au/

I am in no way associated with any of the relevant organisations and do not speak for them, only from personal experience.

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      •  

        It's very different.
        They have an entire call centre dedicated to making you feel guilty for not giving up your own time to help them turn a profit. It's disgusting for a so-called charity to treat volunteers like they do.

  • +1 vote

    Is their any difference in going to a mobile donation van or an actual donation centre?

    •  

      Interview rooms are a bit more cramped and you don't get milkshakes(or any drink beyond room temperature water) and a place to sit down. Also they don't do plasma/platelets as far as I know.

      The donation process is pretty much the same as all it requires is a needle and a doovalacky to measure blood volume/stop it from coagulating.

  • +1 vote

    apparently the ferritin levels of people who have donated a couple of times are much lower than non-donators

    •  

      I can neither confirm nor deny. They measure haemoglobin and won't let you donate if it's too low.

    •  

      Yes, this is the reason I donate, as I have high ferritin.

    • +2 votes

      I can confirm this is correct, your ferritin stores will slowly erode over time when donating blood, this has happened to me and many others. This can be easily fixed with 1-2 months of iron supplements.

    • +1 vote

      Yeah that's true.

      I've donated whole blood about 20 times over the past 7 years and my last blood test showed low ferritin levels so I had to stop for about 6 months while taking iron supplements as a precaution but the doctored okay-ed me after the 6 months as long as I take iron supplements for about a week after each donation.

      •  

        Interesting. I should check it out. What are the symptoms/risks associated with low ferritin?

        • +1 vote

          Risk of fainting. When I did long distance exercise + donate plasma, the iron levels went down pretty quickly.

        •  

          Pretty much the same as having anaemia. Mine was lower than the expected levels but not shockingly low that it would affect my day-to-day stuff.

    •  

      I want to know this too. I have high ferritin

  •  

    Are there any downsides to donating? Do you lose anything?

    •  

      You can be a bit tired and are told to avoid operating heavy machinery. And there are the theorhetical risks whenever needles are around and blood is drawn. Assuming a successful donation though you don't lose anything that you don't get back. Or at least anything you'd notice beyond time.

      It can take up to an hour from entering to leaving (more from an admin/busyness side than anything else). But while you're donating (approx 10 mins) it's a nice time to lie down and read a book.

    • +6 votes

      blood

      •  

        Well temprorarily. It's not like an arm. You'll get it back (or, for the pedants, you'll create new, better blood!)

        •  

          Question. There is a theory that because your blood is refreshed with new blood, you are healthier/fresher overall.

          Is this true?

          •  

            @burningrage: Doubtful, you're just stressing your bone marrow a bit by making it produce new blood quicker than it normally would. Old blood cells that aren't usable get flushed from your body naturally, unless you're constipated…

          •  

            @burningrage: I still feel mid-60s even though I'm mid 30s so I'll go with no. I think if it were proven the blood banks would be banging on about it.

  • +3 votes

    A female friend of mine used to give blood fairly regularly until she discovered that she had become anaemic from the procedures (determined not by the blood bank but by her doc I think). She was fairly upset that their testing had not picked up that she was close to becoming anaemic and I don't think has donated again since.

    Have you ever had this problem and been determined by the blood bank that you should delay the donation?

    Secondly, I have donated a few times in the past but stopped after doing a little research as I had this general feeling that my donations were being used as a commodity by Commonwealth Serum Labs (CSA) which is now a publicly listed company since 1994. Have you had any similar thoughts on this yourself?

    • +2 votes

      I'd be interested to know how that works as haeomoglobin is tested at every donation. Though I don't know if they check for trends (looking at mine it goes up and down a bit but nothing major. So no not for anaemia, one time they cancelled a donation when my BP was too high.

      As much as part of the marketing as anything else they now sms you a few days after you donate and say "Thanks, your blood was used at XX hospital today!" that said my understanding is that they produce a number of blood products like Anti-D for women who are pregnant with babies of differing blood types.

      To the privatisation I don't know if the blood products are sold to companies who then sell them back to hospitals. It wouldn't surprise me if that's how it worked I'd say. That capitalism/outsourcing/bad management of public assets for you.

      Though even if that's true, I do believe the blood is still vital and so if it (or some of it) is going to communal good then that's still an ideal outcome. I suppose it's similar to financial donations going to pay for advertising etc.

      •  

        Yeah, I'm not sure how the warning signs were missed either unless it was something that happened very rapidly between visits. She was very unimpressed either way though as on top of the health issue it also left her out of pocket somewhat with medication and doc visits and the family income was not that great.

        As far as CSL goes, I think they have some agreement where fractionation is done for free in return for some other raw material from the donation (which I think is the plasma component), I cant remember how it all works though so do your own research on that one (its been many years since I looked into and things may have changed).

        I do remember reading one supposedly off the record comment from someone high at CSL that did leave a bad taste in my mouth about using the donations for profit situation although I cant remember exactly what the comment was.

        It's a little different to donations going to pay for ads, as CSL is not a charity. It's certainly a hard one though as on one hand donations are needed but on the other you have this overshadowing "for profit" element, at least for me anyway.

        • +2 votes

          I used to work for CSL and you are correct, they get they raw materials which they turn into a $1000+ product by paying for it with a choc chip cookie.

          Not a bad business to be in i say…no wonder the share price is so high ;)

          • +1 vote

            @mrvaluepack: It's not the first time medical companies have profited from a situation they shouldn't. But that's capitalism for you.

            •  

              @Waffles: Dont get me wrong, the products they make are life saving essential stuff but maybe the people who provide the raw materials like you should at least be aware of where you bodily fluids are going or be more properly compensated ;)

              •  

                @mrvaluepack: It seems much like many forms of volunteering. It typically is a service that should exist for free and for the betterment of society but basically if there is no profit then there is no interest. If the government doesn't handle it then what can you expect?

        •  

          "Almost anaemic" is still normal range haemoglobin then
          I think her GP just freaked her out
          All she needed really is to take some iron supplements for a few weeks then she can donate again

      •  

        Finger-prick tests haemoglobin and not ferritin/iron, so it is possible to have a normal haemoglobin reading yet be low in iron.

  • +13 votes

    Nothing to ask, but just dropped in to thank you for doing this for society :)

    •  

      Hah. Thank YOU! Ive never been much for volunteering and it's hard to find time so it's nice to be able to do something. It's probably more useful than anything I could produce for a bake sale…

      I also get that people can't for a variety of physical and other reasons. I get that and I don't begtudge it in the slightest but I would say that anyone who simply hadn't considered it should give it a go!

  •  

    If i want to donate blood does it have to be my own? And is a punch in the mouth an acceptable method of collection? ;-)

    (For the humourless who will claim I'm inciting violence: This is a joke. Note the smiley. Please don't hit anyone. Please don't be offended by a silly little dad joke.)

  • +4 votes

    How did you become so awesome?

  • +1 vote

    Good stuff OP, might see you tomorrow afro at narre

    • +1 vote

      Awesome. I just donated (hence the post as it was on my mind) but may still run into each other.

      I am pleased to see that, at least around lunch time when I typically go, there's a decent stream of people

  •  

    They have a 2 month wait if you go overseas before donating. Do you think it's okay to lie about going overseas, to donate, especially if you travel often & are an O-?

    Also, how do you get rid of anxiety when donating?

    • +3 votes

      No it's not ok to lie, especially on a legal document.

      All of these questions are important, and you need to answer each one Honestly and the best you can. This is important to ensure your safety and the safety of patients who receive the blood products. There are Severe penalties, including fines and imprisonment, for giving false or misleading information.

    • +1 vote

      As for the anxiety, I don't think you can get rid of it entirely. You can definitely reduce it, but it's hard, unless you know what to expect.

      I was diagnosed with cancer when I was 21, and have had dozens and dozens of needles over the last 7 years, and still get a little uneasy donating plasma.

      •  

        Sorry to hear that.. I hope things got better for you. Thanks for the answers :)

        • +1 vote

          I tend to not look at the needles, and if I feel stressed I tend to start reading a book/watching youtube before they've even started.

  •  

    How do you feel about RC selling your donation?

    •  

      Discussed a bit on the previous page. I'd rather they didn't/didn't need to but it's not enough to stop me from donating, it's not like I can take my blood elsewhere and get better returns, either it goes to people who need it (whether it costs money or not) or I just don't make extra once every couple of months..

      •  

        Thanks for the response. What are the reasons behind you preferring RC didn’t/didn’t need to?

        Quick note: this and previous question was not intended to imply/suggest that people donating should be getting compensated, but rather your feelings about how it’s distributed and associated funding/payments.

        • +1 vote

          I meant more I wish that it was publically run and publically returned through the public system. Where private companies want to buy blood for products or research they should pay for it.

  • +1 vote

    Why don’t we ever see JW’s heckling donors out the front of collection centres, like we see pro-lifers heckling in front of abortion clinics?

    •  

      JW's are nice people. Pro-lifers are…

      passionate about their cause.

    •  

      I am very much not qualified to answer, but my understanding is that while they don't want blood products they're less concerned that it's a bigger problem for non-believers too? Maybe they're too busy doorknocking?

  •  

    Congrats on your 50th. I done 4 times. I believe I eat better after donating. I am AB+. I moved to NZ recently but I feel that they dont want my blood :)).

  •  

    Do I need to know my blood type before going there? Or will they automatically pick up on it?

    •  

      No, they always fill an extra couple of vials for testing so it will be determined from that. Sometime after you'll receive your donor card and it has your type printed on it.

      •  

        Precisely, I believe (though I've never had the trouble of finding out) that they screen you for a number of things that they don't explicitly ask and would tell if you had contracted something that they don't want and you should know about!

  •  

    Ever had any negative experiences donating blood?

    I used to donate regularly whole blood until one nurse who appeared somewhat disgruntled toawrds me (not sure why?) had jabbed me with force and with little care. That donation was quite painful, although I completed the donation I still have have phantom pain in my arm 3-4 years on.

    Informed Redcross at the time although they just brushed it under the rug and did not seem to care about what had occured or at the least preventing this from happening to anyone else.

    •  

      Probably this https://www.ozbargain.com.au/node/476237#comment-7602596 as negative. Other than that I haven't had any donations where I've gone "why do i do this?" after it.

      I've definitely had a spectrum of people who took blood from the overly and overtly kind and friendtly to the ones that made me feel guilty for even being there.

      I also have a friend who was put off by an unpleasent staff member on their first donation. I guess it's like anything where personalities range but with all volunteering it's extra bad as your "customers" are really the ones giving something up.

      A friend had a mother who was bullied out of working at vinnies by other cranky people. It sucks but it happens. Hopefully you give it another chance.

      What I would say is that their communications, quality and standards have all improved immensely in my time donating.

    •  

      I used to book my appointments as early in the day as possible (to avoid waiting due to backlog of donors) and more than once, turned up to find the whole building still locked because they hadn't bothered to open on time.

      •  

        Has that happened recently? I feel they run a tighter ship now…

        •  

          Last time was last year, I haven't been in the past 12 months.

        •  

          Melbourne has been getting steadily worse with evening delays. It's bad enough that I'm considering ditching plasma frequency and going back to whole blood.

  •  

    can you contract germs through the needle insertion site?

    •  

      No one sick is allowed in the room so it's unlikely.

      They put disinfectant on that area, wait a minute for the disinfectant to do it's work. Then they'll open up a brand new needle for every donation.

      After it's done, they'll give you bandages which you must leave on for a few hours. I've noticed that if you leave the bandage on for too long the area doesn't heal well. After an hour or two, I like to pull the bandage up for a few secs just to let some air in.

      •  

        How long does the area take to heal?

        Also i was just curious are you more prone to germs or blood borne disease if for example you took the bandage off before it fully healed

        •  
          • For the blood to stop coming out. A few hours.
          • For the visible red scaring to go away. Several weeks or months.

          The blood will come pouring out if you take the bandage off early so it's pretty obvious that you're not supposed to do that. If you're worried, you can remove the big bandage after a few hours and put on a small band aid.

          If something goes wrong, and there is bruising, the mark will be purple instead of red. They'll give you some cream that you're supposed to put on every few hours afterwards. It goes away after a few days.

          • +1 vote

            @niknah: A couple of hours for bleeding to stop? Nah. Years ago there was no bandage used, they'd just stick a cotton ball on with some tape. Used to pull it off as soon as I got in the car outside, because no tape can tame my hairy arms.

            •  

              @ssquid: I've never had any infection or anything.

              I agree, the bandages don't need to be on for very long before they've clotted enough that you can take them off.

              The healing of the arm is just like any other little scratch. I donated a week ago and my arm checks arm has 1mm scab and that's about it.

            • +1 vote

              @ssquid: The needle gauge used for whole blood is much smaller than that for plasma.

              Removing the bandage too early after plasma donation is a mistake you don't make often ;-)

              You also end up with 'tracks' (more of a 'crater') after a couple of hundred goes.

              edit : nope, turns out I'm wrong. maybe it's the to and fro that leaves one a tad leaky?
              https://www.donateblood.com.au/welcome-plasma

    •  

      I had a minor skin infection at the puncture site after one of my donations that didn't go quite so smoothly as the others. It took a lot longer to heal than usual and ended up leaving a small scar.

  •  

    Ive got O neg, they dont leave you alone

  • +1 vote

    How many times do you need to donate before you start feeling like a gift to humanity?

  •  

    Is it true, that they may not enter past your front door, unless they are invited in ?

    •  

      Why do you think you have to go to them? They even have vans so they don't have to enter your premises…

  • +1 vote

    I seem to hear all the time how much blood shortages there are . Wouldn't it be easy for win win solution and pay goody goodies ( easy to donate to a charity for them) , poor people , people that don't value their time a small reward like in the US and end up with huge stocks ?

    The % spent on the health system would be extremely small overall .

  • +12 votes

    On the topic of blood donation I firmly believe there should be a financial reward.

    Certainly not cash in bank/hand but a health related reward instead.

    Like having a "virtual" amount of money allocated to your Medicare account. So if/when facing a bill of out of pocket medical expenses, not usually covered by Medicare, they will be then paid with those "virtual" funds received as a blood donor contributions. No one gets paid. Medical bills are paid. To keep you healthy so you keep donating blood.

    It is only fair.

    Our filthy corrupt and filthy rich politicians get money for every breath of air they use.
    It is only fair those that really contribute to society get a just reward.

    Otherwise you are just the Village Idiot, giving and giving so the leeches keep taking and taking.

    It is only fair.

    •  

      100% agree.

    • +1 vote

      Definitely agree. Even something like reductions on waiting time on public hospital surgeries, you get the priority line etc. Or free dental maybe? Health insurance rebates for every donation etc.

    •  

      Since I just found this link, you can have it too. https://www.who.int/bloodsafety/voluntary_donation/en/

      Look I'd love that kind of deal. I'm also a public servant so I'd be all about the short queues at government facilities. But do we want a social credit system?

      •  

        All big fat cats at WHO (and UN in general), are overpaid and over pampered. Or bluntly corrupt as one division within the UN was recently found to be.
        So for WHO to ask for "volunteering" is a bit too much considering they "volunteer" nothing.

        But back to Australia, back to reality:
        Not sure your meaning of a social credit system.
        Crediting the donor's Medicare account is very specific and very just. It will be used when the recipient is ill, when is needing assistance. The recipient is giving something rather than receiving (salary, allowances, free meals/travel/expenses/everything, etc etc).

        Nurses and essential services providers have priority accommodation. 'cause they give, they provide.
        Not a social credit system.

  •  

    What times of the day do you go? I find it hard to get there away from business hours.

    •  

      Lunch times. I work in the CBD so there's occasional donation vans nearby or I'll go to town hall and even at lunch time they're not too bad.

      They do now open later/earlier than they did.

  • +3 votes

    When I was a baby my father was involved in a horrible industrial accident. Over three quarters of his body was burned. He required constant blood transfusions. Further, he had a less-common blood group: B+.

    Australia ran out of that blood type. The Red Cross, at their expense, for several weeks flew B+ blood from Canada to Australia for my father.

    Sadly, with 60's medical technology, it was insufficient, and he died after four weeks.

    Even so, this has given me, during my life, tremendous goodwill towards the Red Cross and blood donation in general.

    Alas, I have never been able to donate myself due to: a) having lived in UK in the 1980's (and thus a candidate for Mad Cow), and b) inelgible in another category.

    Frustrating for me, and I fear it makes me look slightly hypocritical at work when I enthusiastically encourage people to donate, but do not (can not) myself.

    •  

      I could donate more than I do - particularly plasma. But there is a balance that has to be made and doing what you can is the best you can do. People are excluded for all sorts of reasons and others "just can't find the time". I get it.

      I think in those situations the best thing you can do is try to encourage and support others to go along.

      As I said elsewhere, for some people it's just a matter of "I didn't even think of donating" and so I hope this forum has encouraged some of them to give it a go. Otherwise it's a matter of talking with people through their concerns and any apprehension they may have.

  •  

    Does "health benefits" of blood donors like reduce iron level, burn calories, and "refresh your blood" are truth or myths?
    https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/319366.php

    Does it also applied to plasma donors?

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