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In which there is extensive discussion of blood

July 5, 2010

Warning: discussion of a) blood donation and b) periods ahead. Relatives and real-life friends may wish to skip for reasons of TMI. Blood- and needlephobes continue at their own discretion.

Got a couple of things done today:

First, went and donated blood for the first time in seven months. The delay came because I got a tattoo (back in January) and you’re not allowed to donate for four months afterwards, and then a combination of laziness, lack of time and never quite feeling well enough when it crossed my mind put it off further. But it’s done now, and I have the plasters to show for it.

This was my eleventh donation – I’ve donated regularly since I turned 17 (the legal minimum) and am getting to feel like quite an old hand at the business. There were three young guys in there at the same time as me who were all donating for the first time, and all of whom looked horribly nervous as they waited.

I didn’t say anything, not least because it’s hard to be reassuring about blood donation – it is weird, it does hurt, and the needle they have to use is worryingly big compared to normal hypodermics. And then there’s the small matter of them, you know, taking your blood. The bit I’ve always found most disconcerting is when a loop of tube ends up lying across my arm and it gets weirdly warm. Even knowing that internal body temperature is 37C or so – equivalent a dangerously hot day by UK standards – doesn’t prepare me for what near-thirty-seven-degree fluid actually feels like.

It’s a weird process, and not without its side-effects: I almost always bruise and feel achy and light-headed afterwards. But I can’t imagine giving it up, now – it’s been impressed on me from a very small age that if I can, I should. (One of my earlier memories is of going with my dad when he donated, and the age of – six or seven I guess? I sat by the bed and the nurses gave me raisins. Apparently I was completely unfazed by the whole business.) Being pretty healthy right at the moment, and also living in a city that has a permanent centre nearby, I can, and so I do.

The British system doesn’t pay for blood, unless you count the free tea and biscuits. I suspect that this somewhat reduces the number of people who give, but I think it’s still the best practice on two counts: firstly, the NHS doesn’t have the money; and secondly, it effectively removes any reason for people to lie about their age, disease status or the date of their last donation, which both reduces the risk of unusable blood getting into the system and the risk to the donor.

Second errand: I bought myself a Mooncup, after kind of meaning to for ages and being recommended it by a bunch of people. For twenty quid it’s a bargain, considering that it can last ten years if looked after, whereas £20 worth of disposable menstrual products last one year or less. It is also promised to be smell-free, which is probably the thing I hate most about pads especially. And on top of all that it’s good for the environment, so pluses all around.

It’s a mildly disconcerting item made of strong silicone rubber which makes a hilariously loud popping noise if you close it and then let it snap open. I won’t get to use it for its intended purpose for another couple of weeks – I bought it now because I was in Boots and there it was – but I think the popping will keep me amused for much of the interim.

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