4 minute readBlood

How to Donate Blood for Newbies and Needle-Haters

I’ve been working at the American Red Cross for nine months and 15 days, and during those nine months and 15 days, I’ve adamantly told myself I’m going to give blood. I haven’t yet because I, like so many others, prefer not to be poked in the arm with a needle. This serious, full-blown, irrational, paranoid fear of needles is exemplified in two memorable experiences with shots:

1. The immunization shot. This shot was no big deal, I barely felt a pinch. Afterward, while my mom was chatting with the nurse, I was trying to get her attention. She kept consistently nudging me away thinking I was trying to interrupt her. No, I was only momentarily taking a pause to conveniently pass out!

2. The wisdom teeth. I was making a big fuss about the whole thing when the nurse pulled a sneak attack and stuck me with the shot to knock me out. I was so upset and blubbering, “YOU LIAR! YOU LIAR! YOU LIIIaaa…..” as I passed into dreamland.

Needless to say, I wasn’t in any particular HURRY to be poked again. But I soon came to the realization that we’re in a pretty serious blood shortfall, man – so I sucked it up and marched myself over to the Red Cross blood donation center (with my friend, Molly Graham, to hold my hand, of course). Let me break the whole top-bloody-notch (pun intended) experience down for you.

Prepare to give blood

Before you donate, do yourself a favor and visit redcrossblood.org. There’s helpful advice about what to do before, during and after giving blood. For example, some helpful tips for me:

1. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate: Drinking water is always important, so this comes as no surprise it’s important before giving blood too.

water cup How to Donate Blood
My trusty water cup, always at my desk.

2. Wear comfy clothes: Do these awesome ranchero-style boots count? It doesn’t get in the way of my shirt rolling above my elbow for the nurse to poke my arm, so I think I’m good.

Black boots How to Donate Blood
These boots were made for blood givin’.

3. Pack on the iron: No, I’m not talking about the iron you lift in the gym (although that’s healthy, too). I’m talking about the iron that’s in your food. For example, the day of my donation I ate an egg, banana bread with jelly, a spinach and kale salad, a clementine, a kiwi, an apple, and a piece of bread with almond butter right before I gave blood.

Before giving blood

First, take two steps in the blood donation center’s door, and don’t look back!

Then, when you’re in the waiting area, casually take a gander at the FREE food already available BEFORE you give blood. I was feeling a little hungry, so I munched on some pretzels and slurped up more water while I waited for my turn.

pretzels and water snacks how to give blood
This calmed my growling, nervous tummy.

When your turn comes, you’ll be taken to a separate waiting area. Don’t panic. Here you’ll be asked a series of basic questions while they check your temperature, blood pressure, and then… the dreaded finger-prick! This is necessary to determine your fate of whether or not you’ll be able to give blood that day.

Giving blood, the full lowdown

First-timers, you should know that the people who work at the blood donation centers are super nice and very professional. Karen Dominguez, bless her heart, was my phlebotomist (pronounced: fla-BOT-o-mist) of the night. She graciously seated my friend and me together. Karen kindly asked who wanted to go first. I decided if I watched my friend get poked first, I would likely back out. My courage was sky-high and I was ready to DO THIS. She told me she would count down when she would prick me in my right arm’s healthy veins.

One… Two… Three!

Done, it wasn’t that bad! And then… the panic set in.
Wait, that was it? That wasn’t that bad. Wait, blood’s coming out now? Let me take a peek. Bad idea… bad idea… Did the lights just dim down? I feel like I’m under water, is she talking to me? Am I freaking out? I think I’m freaking out. No wait, I’m definitely freaking out!

Folks, I put this in here because I want to be realistic about my experience. But in all seriousness, I was simply panicking. The prick in my arm really wasn’t that bad, but my anxiety-filled nerves got the best of me and started making me feel a little uneasy. Karen (BLESS HER SWEET LITTLE HEART) calmed me down, got me some cold, wet towels and told me to cough really deep into my stomach (all of which helped immensely).

In all, I totally regained my cool. Within 20 minutes a pint of blood was taken out of my five-foot body and placed into a bag that would soon be whisked away to someone in need. How cool is that? In a few weeks, I’ll also know my blood type!

When all this was said and done, I took my bandaged arm and smiling face over to the snack table, and happily nibbled away on my Keebler treats.

Snacks after giving blood
Keebler treats for your heart’s desire!
Ernie the Keebler elf holding thank you sign
Even Ernie the Keebler elf is proud of you!

In summation, go give blood. It does benefit someone out there and if they could, they would certainly let you know how much it means to them. Need proof?

Arm after donating blood how to give blood
Arm function still intact. March 24 is the day I can go back, so you can all keep me accountable.

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  1. Oh my gosh! Thank you for posting this! I’m wanting to donate blood next week at my school’s blood drive, I’m just super nervous. But, this did help my nerves so THANK YOU! 🙂

  2. You may have had a serious, full-blown, paranoid fear of needles, but it was not irrational because it “is exemplified in two memorable experiences with shots.”

    Anyway, I’m glad you don’t let fear govern your life or stop you from giving life to others.

  3. Wednesday is the day that I give Blood at my schools’ Blood Drive, I am nervous beyond belief. When I was 8-ish, it took 4 doctors to hold me down just for a flue shot. I am 17, going on 18 and am ready to cry I am so scared. S-O-S! I am sikeing myself out! I am petrified of needles and need ways to calm down and to get through it.

  4. Dear Claudia, we are so sorry we didn’t reply to you in time! How did it go? It’s natural to be nervous, and we hope this blog post helped to provide some comforting tips. Blood donors are heroes in our book. 🙂

  5. Great thing to do i am in the 3 gal club And have help over 70 people the staff are well trained and very professional. I donate every 2 months. I love to donate blood.

  6. I’m terrified of needles! I have 10piercings but when it comes to needles in my body for blood I’m absolutely terrified, I’m donating blood tomorrow (Monday) for our annual school blood drive though!

  7. Ok so this is my first time going to donate blood what is the process like and how long does it take I’m really scared of needles is someone there that can keep me calm

  8. hey I really want to donate blood! im 17 and a healthy weight the only thing I worry about is the fact that I feel light headed just thinking about needles. that wouldn’t disqualify me would it? ive never passed out while having my blood drawn I just don’t want to cause trouble. by the way my father if AB so theres a possibility my blood could be as well isn’t there?

  9. Oh my gosh I am donating blood at my school blood drive and I’m not a big fan of needles. This really helped me

  10. I just turned 17 this past year and I want to give blood, but I’m scared. This article was kind of helpful.

  11. Thanks for the story, I’m afraid of seeing blood too! But, this story reminds me that donating is seeing blood in a positive context and it’s nothing to be afraid of. Also, I might have O blood because my dad has it and he donates as often as allowed so it’d be great to follow him even if I do have a more common type after all. I’m going to try and put these two positive thoughts together when I go for the blood drive at my school in a couple weeks 🙂

  12. I am SUPER scared of needles… I don’t even have a reason why. I’m 16 and I’m giving blood for the first time today and my mom told me that the needle is really big and now I’m getting scared. This article helped a little, does it help if I don’t look at the needle when they put it in?