Donating Your Time at the Blood Donor Clinic

Written by: Alyssa Lait

Warning that there is some detailed description of the blood drawing process.

Recently, I visited a Canada Blood Services collection event at Church in the Valley in Langley to get an overview of the kind of work that volunteers contribute to the process of blood donation. To help illustrate my visit, I’ll walk through the donation process, to help illustrate what one can expect when they come to the clinic to either donate or volunteer.

When someone arrives to their appointment to give blood, they should have hydrated for the past few days, and had something to eat a few hours before their donation. Then, they will be checked in for registration, and complete a questionnaire to confirm eligibility. The first time I gave blood, this process was very straightforward, and I was helped at each step by the staff at the clinic.

The next step is the examination, where staff will conduct tests such as the finger stick test for hemoglobin levels, potentially take blood pressure and essentially give another screening past the questionnaire before you can donate. This is so they can ensure that you are able to donate safely and that your blood can be used once it is collected.

Finally, you are ready to give blood! Clinics will have multiple beds laid out, in the range of about six, depending on the size of the clinic. When it is your turn, you’ll sometimes be given something like a stress ball, and the staff will use a clean needle to collect from a vein. Because this is the deoxygenated blood, it will look dark red for most people. When I asked the staff about it when I first gave blood, they told me that athletes’ blood sometimes present a brighter hue due to increased oxygenation. Once your blood is being collected (450mL), it’s just a matter of ensuring that it is flowing properly, and collection only takes 10-15 minutes on average (I read a few pages of a book on my phone during my donation).

When you’re done, you’ll be helped to the refreshment area to recover. This is where the volunteers come in! Here, volunteers will chat with donors, and help prepare refreshments for them to enjoy after donations. Here, they give out cookies, juice, water, salty snacks, and otherwise provide good company for donors and their families. This is very important, since the volunteers are the last step of the donation, and can help contribute to lasting participation of donors with the Canadian Blood Services.

Whether or not you can donate blood, there are still ways to get involved with Canada Blood Services in the quest to give life. There are a variety of roles for volunteers, beyond the position I was able to observe, which you can explore by going onto their website for registration!

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