Yesterday I donated blood for the very first time as a vegan. In this blog article I’ll tell you about my experience and how it’s like to be a vegan blood donor.
Why I decided to give blood
It was after a night spent with a friend (yes – the same friend who inspired me to purchase reusable straws!) that I decided that I should give blood again. Eight years ago, I’d tried giving blood but ended up feeling horrible, faint, and very tired for the rest of the week. I was a vegetarian back then and my iron levels were barely high enough to donate. When I got my blood test results back a couple of weeks ago (my GP tests my blood yearly just to see if I’m getting all the essential vitamins and minerals), my Hb (haemaglobin) was 140g/l! When donating blood, your Hb has to be at least 125g/l for women and 135g/l for men. As I’m a healthy, young woman on a vegan diet, I realized my blood was needed and there was no reason to not give blood.
Or was there? My last experience, eight years ago, was so horrible that I never wanted to go again. It was this friend that suggested going together, and reluctantly, I booked myself an appointment at blood.co.uk.
I was quite nervous while entering the donation center. I was asked to fill out a healthcheck form in advance, so I gave that to the receptionist and was told to sit down and have at least 500ml of juice. I was also given a welcome leaflet, which explains the importance of blood safety. After about ten minutes, I had to go to a small private room with a nurse, for a short health screening. My identity was confirmed, some questions about my recent travels were asked and then a drop of blood from my middle finger was tested to check the iron levels. All was fine, so I was ready to proceed!
My blood donation
After the health screening, I was called to a donation chair. I was feeling chilly – probably my nerves! – but my nurse calmed me down and told me everything would be okay. A cuff was placed on my arm to maintain a small amount of pressure. After this, the nurse cleaned my arm with an antiseptic sponge and inserted the needle. I made sure to look away – even though I’m not afraid of needles, I hate the sight of one getting in my skin! I didn’t even notice the donation process had already begun until the nurse said “Okay, you’re running now and everything seems to be fine!”. I dared to look down at my own blood flowing out of my body and didn’t feel faint at all.
I was told to wiggle my feet and clench my buttocks to help with the blood flow. Sometimes the machine started beeping, meaning I had to squeeze my hands a bit. After about 10 minutes I had reached the 470ml, the needle was removed and a sterile dressing was applied to my arm. I had to sit right up in my chair and this is where I expected to get light-headed, but nothing happened. I felt great! The nurse helped me get to a corner with comfy chairs and loads of snacks – I had some water and oreos, yum!
When I got home, I felt very energetic and happy that I had donated blood. I had overcome my fear of donating blood. In the evening I did get quite tired, more than usual, and when I went to bed I was asleep within minutes.
Can vegans safely donate blood?
I would say that it’s totally safe for a vegan to donate blood as long as their iron levels are above the recommended levels. If you’re worried about donating blood, get in touch with blood.co.uk and find out more!
Are you a vegan blood donor?