Organ & Blood Donation

A good thing… and a thank you. (Article by Jon Jones - Church Treasurer)

Last week the general Synod passed a resolution to encourage blood and organ donation.  

Fortunately I haven’t had to make use of the organ donor service, but, as a registered organ donor, I would encourage everyone to register.  In the event of an untimely bereavement it is unfair to leave the decision to your surviving family, with all the heart-ache and soul-searching that can involve – if you are registered as a donor they then know your wishes.  If you do not want to be an organ donor – tell your family – that way there is no doubt.

But, as a life-long blood donor, whose wife has recently had to call on the service for 7 units of blood in a life threatening situation, I felt I needed to bring this to the attention of the St George’s communion.  I thought a short note on my experiences might de-mystify the process for those that haven’t yet donated.

The sessions are run at set venues in and around the area and take place on different days, with sessions in the morning, afternoon and evenings depending on the venue and date.  I usually donate at the Novotel near St Mark’s Church at Worsley roundabout, as this session is run on Sundays.

Most people donate two or three times a year, and I admit I have missed a few sessions because of holidays or other commitments.  Initially, it is necessary to contact the blood donor hot-line to book an appointment (0300 1232323 or www.blood.co.uk).  Subsequent session appointments are booked after the donation (when you’re having a cup of tea and a chocolate biscuit).  I don’t recommend you turn up at a session without an appointment – whilst this is allowed, you may have an indeterminate wait, and it can be considerable if not pre-booked.

A week prior to the session appointment the blood service send you a reminder, with a 2 page health questionnaire which you complete and take with you.  If you are unsure if there may be something that will prevent you from giving you can always speak to the blood service on the number above for advice and to avoid a wasted journey.

On the day of the session, drink plenty of water prior to your appointment.  On arrival book in with the session reception nurse, who will take your questionnaire and give you the latest information brochure to read whilst you wait.  There is water available to drink.  It is always best to arrive a couple of minutes before your appointment time, to avoid losing your pre-booked slot.

After a few minutes you’ll be called for a one to one with a session nurse, who takes a couple of minutes to go through your health check  sheet and performs a finger-prick test to ensure you’re not anaemic.  You can also ask any questions you may have.  After a session or two this becomes routine. On your first visit this may be slightly longer, as they will want to go over the process.

You then wait in a separate area with a drink until a bed is free.  I say bed, but at the session I attend they use a type of tilting scoop chair – extremely comfortable – and I’ve been known to catch a few zzzs.  A nurse collects you from the waiting area, takes you to the bed and you can chose the arm to use, left or right.

The nurse settles you in, cleans your arm with an antiseptic wipe and inserts the needle – they are very experienced and good at this and it really doesn’t hurt – a small prick.  Then it’s settle back for a read or some zzzs.  The time it takes to give a unit of blood varies by person, 5-15 minutes max.  An alarm on the donation unit tells the nurse when you’re done – I think it works by weight (of the blood bag) and it automatically shuts off the blood flow, so there is no risk of draining you!

The nurse dresses your arm (only a needle prick) with a plaster and a pressure pad, gives you a few minutes to gather yourself, then it’s off to the tea and coffee stand for a sit with a hot (or cold) drink and some chocolate biscuits.  Leave at your leisure but don’t forget to book your next appointment before you leave – the best appointments times can be like gold dust!.  It’s ok to drive.

From start to finish it usually takes about an hour, and the after effects are minimal – I usually use it as an excuse to put my feet up for the afternoon and escape making dinner – well there has to be some direct benefit.  Occasionally I’ve had some bruising, but in over 40 donations this has only been a couple of times and not recently.

I use to think that I was doing this just because it was the good and altruistic thing to do – for the good of society in general, until that fateful day in October last year when I realised that, prayers aside, without the altruism of the donor population, my wife would have died.

To all donors past, present and future, on behalf of my wife, my children and myself, I give heartfelt thanks.