So why is that I have a weird name on twitter? Well you might also have noticed walking around your towns and cities over the last week or so that street signs are missing letters and people taking selfies with written signs where they seem to have made a few typos. Or playing a weird game of Hangman!
But if you’re smart you’ll notice that the only letters missing are consistently the same 3: A, B and O.
It’s all part of a social media campaign called ‘Missing Type‘ to raise awareness of the need for more blood donors. And I want to share a little bit because I know the reason many people don’t is because they are afraid to.
I was one of those people!
When I was 17, I learned what blood type I was. I have rhesis negative blood. Most people in my country have ‘positive’ blood types (usually A or O). Only 9.5% of the population of Scotland share my blood type.
I later learned that my blood type is the only one that pretty much anyone can receive. I am what they call a universal donor. Great for all of you, but not so fun for us because we can only receive our own blood type. It means that often there are short supplies of my blood type as it’s used in emergencies when they know a patient needs blood STAT but haven’t found out what type they are (yet).
When I discovered this I felt that I couldn’t not give blood. The only problem was that I’m not a huge fan of needles. In fact I was so scared of needles that I managed to get out of a few vaccinations when I was a teenager in very creative ways*. Me being me, I prayed a ton about it, really felt that God was saying that I needed to step up and face my fear because it was worth it to save someone’s life.
Can’t really argue with that.
Two of my good friends (both medical students who had no fear of needles and several times during their training asked to practise their clinical skills on me) who knew that this was going to be a BIG DEAL promised to come in solidarity with me and to generally ensure that I’d be ok.
Attempt number 1 involved a trip to the Glasgow blood donor centre during the summer holiday. This trip revealed that having Post-Viral Fatigue Syndrome had caused me to lose so much weight that I didn’t weigh enough to be allowed to give blood. The up side of this was that I still got to be with my friend while he gave blood so I got to see the process and how friendly the staff were. I spent the rest of the summer eating as much as I could handle in an attempt to regain the stone I’d lost!
This led to attempt number 2 in Aberdeen when my friend and our other friend and myself all went to the blood donor centre in Aberdeen. My friends were wonderful in helping me explain my fears to the nurses working there, and the nurses could not have been nicer. They made sure to explain everything they were doing, they checked my weight and I confessed that a few months before I hadn’t weighed enough to be allowed. I had surpassed the 8 stone line and we celebrated my weight gain. And perhaps most importantly they allowed my friends to be by my side to generally distract me from the whole giving blood process. Being that they were both medical students they also enjoyed getting to have a close watch and I think one of them got very excited at the moment she saw my blood coming out through the tube.
I’m not especially squeamish about blood – I can handle it…unless it’s my own. This basically means that if you split your head open I’ll be able to hold it together and mop up the mess while we get you to a doctor who can stitch you back up again (so long as you’re not puking up from concussion or something…) But I still remember the day my GP handed me my own blood samples to take down to reception and I just about passed out on the spot.
The nurses at the blood donor centre didn’t bat an eyelid at this news. They got my friends to talk to me while they inserted the needle (and because they do this all day every day, they are PROS, unlike some nurses/doctors who are less experienced in the world of phlebotomy). Then continued to get my friends to keep me distracted while they covered my arm in paper towels so I couldn’t see any of my blood. They had also checked to see if seeing other people donating would trouble me and I assured them I’d be fine seeing everyone else. However, had I told them it would, they were ready to put me behind screens so I wouldn’t see any blood at all. And I know that my friend’s husband (who is more terrified of needles and is VERY squeamish) got the screen treatment and thanks to these amazing nurses has given blood several times.
Unfortunately, halfway through my blood just well…stopped! The nurses did everything they could to help me donate a full pint but eventually they had to tell me it was no use.
I was absolutely fine. I didn’t feel weird. I was just really disappointed.
The next three times I tried though, it became clear that due to my lack of blood pressure my body just couldn’t give a pint of blood. The nurses looked at me sympathetically and told me I should stop coming back.
They still gave me chocolate biscuits and juice each time to thank me for trying.
It makes me sad that I can’t give blood, because I really want to be able to. Plus, giving blood really has taken away my fear of needles. I mean I’m not like a fan, but I can now happily go into my practise nurse for blood tests, injections and vaccinations and as long as I don’t see anything: we’re all good.
So. All this to say please go – take a friend to be with you if need be – and try to donate blood! It is so needed. You can see here the current stock levels in Scotland.
I know that in the USA, the Red Cross have some fantastic blood donor centers (note my Americaneze spelling of ‘centre’ there!) and I’m sure there are loads of places to give blood in other countries too.
By giving blood today, you could be helping prolong or even save someone’s life tomorrow.
Why wouldn’t you want to be that kind of superhero?!
*No I’m not telling you how, because I do not condone my behaviour. Plus I risked missing my final year of university after contracting mumps due to not being vaccinated against it. This was partly my Mum’s fault for telling me I had been vaccinated as a baby and also Andrew Wakefield’s for making up data that scared many people out of allowing their children to have the MMR vaccine. Thanks Andrew. Not. Oh, and BMJ I’m also going to include you in this because if a 3rd year Health Science undergrad can tell a study is dodgy, who the heck peer reviewed his and didn’t pick up on it?! Ok. I’m stepping off my soapbox and ending this tangent now.