December 8, 2016

Donating Blood in Barbados

I'm embarrassed to say that I donated blood for the first time just two weeks ago. 

I've had blood work done before and though I felt pretty nauseous when I watched the blood being extracted, but I can't really use a fear of needles or the sight of blood as an excuse for not donating.
Donating blood is always something I've felt that I 'should' do, but never really got around to it.
It was only recently when someone near and dear to me needed blood that I finally looked into donating blood. This seems to be a trend in Barbados, and it's just not good enough. I'm writing this blog post in a bid to encourage more people to donate blood on a consistent basis. 

Since my blood donation I've been doing a bit of digging and found some interesting information about blood donation in Barbados:

Barbados has dangerously low rates of voluntary blood donations. According to an article published in 2013, less than 200 people are consistent donors.
- Most Barbadians only give blood if a relative or friend is pregnant, ill or if they were involved in an accident.
- During hectic times of the year like Crop Over and the holidays fewer people come to the centre, making the deficit even more critical.
- There is a Blood Donors of Barbados Facebook Group, where people post announcements about donations and encourage others to donate.
Red Donor is a social initiative aimed at increasing the capacity of a safe and constant supply of blood for every member of the community in Barbados.
The US National Library of Medicine published this paper on knowledge, attitudes and practices towards blood donation in Barbados, and discusses strategies for a voluntary blood donor mobilisation campaign in Barbados.  Apparently, single, female and younger participants were less likely to donate blood. 

When I was trying to arrange my donation, it took some digging to find the answers to some of my questions:

- What number do I call?
- Did I need to book an appointment?
- Did I need to prepare myself in any way before donating? (Such as cutting out alcohol the night before)
- How long does the procedure take (in Barbados time)?

After finally figuring out that I needed to call the general QEH number, I spent over an hour trying to get through to a human being to ask some questions, with no luck. 

Eventually, I just showed up at the blood bank and asked some questions. The Blood Bank team were some of the nicest people I've ever met, and I was in and out of there in less than an hour.  The QEH’s Blood Collection Centre is located next to the Sir Winston Scott Polyclinic in Lady Meade Gardens. You can see it on the map here

Here is a breakdown of the process:

Step 1: Registration

I waited for about 5 minutes in the waiting room before being asked to come in to the first screening room.  A very friendly nurse took down some info and asked me some questions about my medical history, etc., as well as who I was donating for. 

Though she did ask me for my identification number, I didn't have to show proof of address, which leads me to believe that you can donate blood when visiting Barbados. I just checked this and any visitor to the island can donate blood.

Following the registration, the nurse took a tiny pin prick of blood from my finger to test it before we continued on to the other room. This was painless!

Step 1 took a total of 15 minutes. 

Step 2: Donation

I was led in to a bright room with 6 beds. Every bed was occupied by someone donating blood. I was placed next to a guy who was also donating for the first time, and his animated play by play made everyone around us laugh. He was clearly nervous but took it like a champ despite the nurses teasing him!

The nurse took my blood pressure and then inserted the needle into my right arm, as I squeezed a ball to keep the blood flowing. This was pretty painless, though I did look away as she inserted the needle as it felt a bit uncomfortable.

The extraction took about 15 minutes total. They removed the needle and took away the bag of blood. At this point I felt a little woozy, so they tilted my bed back (to help get some blood flowing to my head) and put a damp paper towel on my forehead. I was asked to drink some juice and eat a cookie to get some sugar in my system.

Within 5 minutes I felt perfectly fine, though I chilled on the bed for another 20 minutes. The team was really friendly and making everyone laugh, which helped everyone relax as they donated. 

Step 2 took a total of 35 minutes.

In total, I spent less than an hour in the clinic.

I was told to come back the following week to receive my donor card. I also asked the team to show me where all of the blood is stored - because who doesn't want to see a fridge full of blood? - and they happily obliged:

As a healthy twentysomething who meets all of the requirements of a blood donor, I can't believe it took me this long to bite the bullet and finally give up a quart of my blood. I'll be back at the clinic in 3 months time when I can donate again.

With the demand of blood due to increase over the festive season, I encourage those who are eligible to consider donating blood or doing it more often if you've already done so. If you're a donor, try to inspire and motivate your friends to donate blood and help them realise the profound impact they can have on someone’s life.

Read more info about the Blood Collection Centre Info here.

Read Blood Donation FAQs here.

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