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75 donations

I recently gave blood for the 75th time, and I’ve been pondering my blood donation history.

I remember the first time I gave blood: it was in Southport at the Holy Trinity Church Hall. My mum drove me there because she was worried about me driving after donating. She was scandalised by the need to ‘pay and display’ to park, especially because—in those days—it was hard to know how long to pay for. There was no appointment service: it was a ’turn up and queue’ affair. These days, I book appointments from an app on my phone.

I can’t accurately place this episode in time, though. I think it must have been when I was 19, as I don’t think I donated before starting medical school, and I assume I must have started during the summer holiday at home.

I’ve posted a few times on this blog about donating blood, and was surprised to find that it was in 2012—a little after my 25th donation—that beds were replaced with reclining chairs. They still strike me as somewhat new-fangled, even though I’ve clearly now made two-thirds of my donations in one.

If I did start at 19, then I’ve now been donating for half of my lifetime. A total of 75 donations over 19 years means a frequency of 3.9 donations per year, which is more than double the average. This isn’t because of any particular deep-set sense of altruism, it’s just because I always make the next appointment straight after my last session, and the logical option is to schedule it at my earliest convenience. I’m lucky these days to live within walking distance of a blood donation centre, so I don’t have to try to be available when a peripatetic session happens to be nearby.

Each donation is 450ml, so I’ve given a little short of 34 litres in all, or a little over three times my total blood volume. There’s a cross stitch on display at my local donor centre:

The ‘75’ is, in effect, a slight exaggeration. The rule is—as far as I can make out—that if the donation needle pierces the skin, then that counts as a ‘donation.’ But on very rare occasions, perhaps two or three times over the years, the needle misses the vein, in which case nothing comes out. These days, there seems to be a ‘one attempt’ rule: they won’t even try the other arm to save the bother of coming back another day. I’m sure they used to be more gung-ho about it.

Other than the occasional bruise, I’ve only suffered two minor side effects in those 75 donations.

I remember at a session in Stockton, at the end of my donation, the carer shouted to a colleague, ’I’ve got a leak!’ I assumed there was something wrong with the collection bag, but came to realise quite quickly that it was the enthusiastic blood flow from my arm after the needle had been removed that was the cause for concern. A bit of pressure and elevation sorted that pretty quickly.

On another occasion, the fault was entirely mine. I had a quantity of alcohol after donating (against advice) and took my blood pressure medication and got up too quickly out of bed and stood up to pee. Post-micturition syncope was the predictable consequence. I think this is the only time in my life that I’ve ever fainted. My overriding memory from the event is how fainting didn’t feel like I expected it to: it was much more a feeling in the gut than a light-headedness. No cartoon birds circled my head. I did feel a little foolish.

Never in 75 donations have I ever experienced any pain.

I feel very lucky to have enjoyed good health over the years, and to have been eligible to donate. There are many people who would like to, but cannot.

When I started donating, the National Blood Service gave those who reached 75 donations was an Edinburgh crystal plate—now found in numbers on eBay. My mum could have hung it on her ‘plate wall’. These days, NHS Blood and Transplant give only a pin badge—and, since 2022, a social media badge:

If I make it to 100, I get invited to a special ceremony and—most importantly—I’m pretty sure I get the day off work to attend. There are some days when I’d gladly swap 45 litres of blood for a day off.

This post was filed under: Post-a-day 2023, , , .

30 things I learned in November 2019

1: It feels great, if a little anticlimactic, to finally be able to delete “Locum” from my email signature.

2: The North Shields Fish Quay has really smartened up since Wendy and I last visited. It would be nice to live somewhere with a river view, if only it didn’t have to be near a river.

3: Going to Ikea for the 10.30 Sunday browsing opening time isn’t a successful crowd avoidance strategy.

4: Barriers between healthcare organisations can make simple things—like arranging urgent vaccinations—more difficult than they ought to be. Perhaps someone should invent some sort of national health service which provides care based on need rather than budgets, contract provisions and organisational mission statements.

5: Telling patients that they look far too young to have donated blood 61 times makes them want to go back and donate again as soon as possible to receive more flattery.

6: Sometimes, people who use irritating business chatter do actually understand what they’re on about.

7: Business planning isn’t my bag.

8: Th Guardian Daily app doesn’t work properly on Kindle tablets.

9: Loud Christmas music in coffee shops makes settling down with a coffee and a good book difficult. Headphones and white noise on Spotify are an imperfect and antisocial solution.

10: It’s not easy being green: should I buy second-hand books and support the planet or new books and support the author?

11: Durham County Council has meeting rooms with quite spectacular coastal views in Seaham:

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12: Dementia friendly parking spaces are now a thing… at least in Hemlington:

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13: “At this time of year, it is not uncommon for viruses including influenza and norovirus to circulate in schools. The risk of infection can be reduced by practising good hand hygiene, particularly after using the toilet, after using a tissue to catch a cough or a sneeze, and before eating.”

14: Our TV needs re-tuning. Broadcasts are moving away from the 700MHz band of frequencies to free up spectrum for mobile data instead. Given the profitability of mobile data services and the proliferation of home broadband (especially in the context of PSTN switch-off), I wonder how long over-the-air television broadcast have left?

15: Arguments opposing the Public Libraries Act 1850 included a Conservative view that people “have too much knowledge already” and that “the more education people get the more difficult they are to manage.” In fairness, I suppose people now carry the sum of human knowledge in their pockets and do have a tendency to be rebel against authoritarian control, so perhaps he had a point.

16: The TLS has relaunched with a rather stylish new look. Dr Brian Klass’s comparison of politics in Trump’s America and that in Brexit Britain through the medium of cheese was a particular highlight of this issue for me.

17: Coffee shop Christmas music irritates Wendy even more than me. It’s depressing, or so I’m told.

18: A replacement wing mirror for a 2009 Aygo costs less than £50. I was expecting a much bigger bill after someone completely snapped mine off (and didn’t leave a note!)

19: The brand new Sunderland medical school has some impressive facilities.

20: Colleagues at Middlesbrough Council taught me that routine air quality monitoring still uses diffusion tubes fixed to lampposts; people have to go up in cherry pickers to change the tubes every month.

21: Research into treatments for interstitial lung disease includes a lot of discussion about disease taxonomy and the problem of lumping and splitting: considering diagnoses with the same underlying pathology together (lumping) or as distinct entities (splitting).

22: Cleveland Fire Brigade taught me about their Stay Safe and Warm free one-hour response service for boiler breakdowns where they lend people emergency electric heaters.

23: A wet and dreary Saturday can be a good prompt to light the fire and relax at home.

24: I didn’t know that Sheffield had a hybrid tram-train system until I read this Wired article.

25: Purdah rules can be really annoying sometimes, especially when I’ve done a lot of work to prepare for a meeting I’m no longer able to attend.

26: I thought I learned the etymology of the word “syndrome” after it was featured in a lecture. Yet after thinking about it for a while, the suggestion that it was derived from words for “before” and “diagnosis” didn’t ring true, so I looked it up in the OED online. The lecture version was thus proven to be completely wrong, so I suppose I learned not to take the content of lectures on trust.

27: Only a decade late to the party, I learned that Ecosia—the search engine that plants trees—is a thing.

28: People really don’t know what I do all day. This month, in my health protection role, a meeting of vascular surgeons has invited me to talk about knife crime, a univeristy course has asked me to teach about rural medicine, and a meeting of intensivists has invited me to present on recreational drug toxicology. They may be disappointed at me turning down their kind invitations, but they’d be far more disappointed if I accepted given that I know naff all about any of those topics.

29: Via Lana Greene’s column in 1843, I leaned of the German word “Multioptionsgesellschaft”. It was apparently coined by Peter Gross, a Swiss sociologist, in the early 1990s. It refers to a world swamped by choice, which feels very current: I frequently open Netflix for something to watch and close it a few minutes later with the resignation of not being able to decide.

30: I heard a snippet of a radio programme in which an older person was being interviewed and the subject of loneliness among the elderly came up. The interviewee suggested that while lots of attention has been paid to loneliness recently, too little has been paid to the loss of solitude for many other older people, such as those in care homes. I’d never heard that point made before, and I suspect it will stick with me: solitude is something very important to me.

This post was filed under: Posts delayed by 12 months, Things I've learned, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , .

Photo-a-day 51: Giving blood


This is where I’ve been this evening: if you can give blood, you really should too. For more info and to make an appointment, log on to blood.co.uk or call 0300 123 23 23. Shocking pink lipstick isn’t compulsory.

This post was filed under: Photo-a-day 2012, .

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