On Saturday, 14th June, 2008, I donated blood for the first time in my life. The thought of someone sticking a needle into me and sucking out my blood scared me.
I got to the venue which was a tent pitched right next to the August 7th Memorial park also known as the Bomb Blast Memorial Park or simply “Bomb Blast” to the common mwananchi. I was ushered to the weighing scale. I weighed in at five kilos above the minimum required weight of fifty kilograms, thank you very much! I was then given a form to fill in, which was basically to determine if I had been involved in risky behaviour like commercial sex or drug use or what Kenyan law might consider an unnatural act, and to confirm that I was in good health, over 16 years old, not expectant or breast feeding, and that I hadn’t had a blood transfusion in the last 6 months.
When I was done filling in the form, I handed it over to one of the staff members, a friendly looking woman, who asked about my health history and then checked my blood pressure. She then pricked my finger. I cannot tell a lie. That bit hurt like hell! But she needed to do this to check my haemoglobin level. This is the oxygen carrying component of your blood. If your haemoglobin concentration is normal, then the little drop of your blood that goes into the haemoglobin detector liquid should plummet to the bottom of the jar within seconds. Sort of like a rock. If it dilly-dallies on the way down, you may have a problem.. I passed the test.
My name was added to a register with a number that corresponded to the number on the bag that I was given for my blood. I was then ushered to a bed where I lay down. A staff member placed one of those pressure cuffs around my upper arm and began to search for a vein. When she finally found one, she cleaned the skin on the inside of my elbow and inserted a needle that was attached to a plastic tube that was attached to the bag that I had been given. She gave me a little ball to squeeze, I suppose to help with blood flow.
I watched as the blood flowed from my arm through the tube and into the bag. Suddenly it wasn’t scary anymore. I was over the worst of it and the thought that my blood might just help save someone’s life, maybe even my own one day, made me feel pretty good about myself. A little over half a litre of blood later, a bandage was placed over the needle site and I was done. The whole thing can’t have taken me more than half an hour and at the end of it, I scored a four pack of biscuits and lucozade baby!