First Time Blood Donation at NUH

It was J.’s first blood donation. Being in school and having heard good things about the staff at the Blood Donation Centre at NUH (located near the main building’s shuttle bus stop), he decided to drop by in the middle of studying for paediatrics.

Superstitious as Singaporeans are, during the lunar 7th month’s Hungry Ghost Festival, there has been a drop in blood donations. The sad thing is that people still need blood products, and when demand outstrips supply, blood products start to run short.

It took about 10min for J. to walk from the Medical + Science Library to the NUH Blood Donation Centre. On arrival, he noted that there was only one other donor, a second-year medical student. Although he had forgotten to bring his identity card (IC) along, he had fortunately brought along his driver’s license, a photo ID with his IC number. What happened next was as follows:

  1. At the counter

    J. passed his driver’s license to the nurse behind the counter. She keyed the IC number into the computer and returned J.’s driver’s license with a pen and form to fill out. The nurse explained to J. the risks of donating infected blood or the possibilities that though one had negative blood tests the possibility of sitll being infected.

    Since J. is a final year medical student, that part went quite quickly as J. scanned the information pages and went on to fill out the questionnaire with his personal particulars including blood type and then answered the questionnaire on high-risk behaviours like intravenous drug use (higher risk of Hepatitis C) and travel history.

  2. Interview room

    J.’s weight was taken (people weighing less than 48kg, which includes many girls in Singapore, cannot donate blood), his blood pressure was taken and the nurse went through the questionnaire question-by-question with J. to double-check. Good thing, too, as he had accidentally ticked “Yes” to a “Have you had fever within the past 3 weeks?” question. That was corrected and J. signed off his correction

    Another hitch came when it came to dental work. 3 days prior, J. had his 6-monthly dental checkup. Thankfully, 6 months of regular toothbrushing and flossing resulted in a perfect bill of dental health, and all J. had done was scaling and polishing (gotta keep them pearlly whites glowing, eh? haha!). The nurse flipped open a book of procedures which detailed the length of time a person should not donate after a procedure. Length of time of no blood donation after scaling + polishing: 1 day. Phew.

  3. Donation Room

    Capillary blood was obtained via fingerprick for haemoglobin (a screen for iron-deficiency anaemia, also fairly common among Singaporean girls). Some compression and a plaster later, J. sat down in the decidedly comfortable donation seat which is shaped like a lying down S. He read his Paediatrics book while waiting for the nurses to ready the equipment, only occasionally being distracted by the Chinese drama serial on television.

    A tourniquet was placed on J.’s left arm after the nurse ascertained that he was right-handed. A squeeze ball was placed in his left hand, which he squeezed vigorously with great enthusiasm => bigger blood vessel = lower miss rate, yes? In the meantime, the area of the cubital vein was swabbed with iodine which was subsequently cleaned off with sterile gauze.

  4. Local anaesthetic was injected into the area. It stung slightly. The nurse adjusted the machine to extract 470mls of blood while the local anaesthetic took effect (3-5min). The 16G cannula (connected to the bag at the machine) went in easily with absolutely no pain whatsoever, it was evident the local anaesthetic had served its function.

    In the meantime, J. kept boredom at bay by alternating between chatting with the nurse and reading his paediatrics textbook. After about three and a half minutes, the blood drawing was done. The nurse clipped the tubing with a temporary seal, clamped the tubing before cutting it and by manipulating the cut tubing (still connected to the cannula), filled two tubes for testing – one plain tube (red) and one potassium EDTA tube (purple).

    The cannula was withdrawn, gauze was placed over it and J. applied pressure. A few minutes later, the nurse returned with alcohol swabs to clean off the remnant iodine. J. reapplied pressure. Some time later, the nurse returned again and placed a small circular plaster over the cannula entry point.

  5. Waiting Area

    As J. prepared to leave, the nurse told him about some nourishment they had for donors. There was a styrofoam cup of milo on a saucer with a packet of 4 cream sandwich crackers. After eating (while reading The Straits Times provided), J. was on his way back to the Science Library to study.

J. was advised to drink plenty of fluids that day and to avoid strenuous activities for at least 24hrs. If in the next couple of days he spikes a fever, he should call back to inform the centre as soon as possible to avoid the use of contaminated blood. If all goes well and there are no contraindications, J. can return to donate blood in 3 months time.

Well, that was pretty painless. J.’ll probably do it again.

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