Monday, 30 November 2009

The Blood Donor

NHS dress code used to be much more relaxed
Addressing a lifetime's delinquency, I went to give blood today. My wife has done it for years, and in the 'container of blood' club, she has attained small wheelbarrow status. It's a breeze, she tells me. You won't feel a thing, she tells me.

We set off. Hell's bells - what have they done to the village hall? It's ghastly, like a scene from the old Hammer classic "The Mass Production Facility of Count Dracula". Beds everywhere, with people on them bleeding into bottles. My knees wobble, but I've eaten garlic recently, and the missus is with me, so in we go.

They greet her like an old friend ("Back so soon, Mrs Grumpy? Usual bed?"), but I have to undergo first-timers' initiation. It turns out they're quite fussy. Amazingly, it's OK to visit North Africa, but you can't give blood if you've been to North America. They may claim West Nile Virus, but I think they're worried we might start demanding payment. They're a canny bunch across the pond.

Besides wanting to know where you've been, they want to know all about your sex life. Some of the questions would make a trooper blush. Certainly not, I answer to questions 4 through 9, not with my bad back, and even if I wanted to I wouldn't know how. They ask if you've bounced around with anyone in a country where HIV is prevalent. I've been on an exotic holiday with my wife. Does that count? Confusing.

Questions, questions. What is your ethnicity? Have you ever been a member of the Conservative Party? Do you sell wartime memorabilia on eBay? Do you wear pyjamas in bed? I lie, obviously. Their privacy statement ominously says 'Unless we are required to do so by law, we will not disclose any personal information'. In other words, if you admit to having visited Morocco then HM Customs will drop round with dogs and sledgehammers, demanding to inspect your souvenirs. You have been warned.

At last the nosy questionnaire is out of the way. A nice nurse pricks my finger and then squeezes out a gigantic blob of blood, to test me for anaemia, and squeamishness. I pass the test by not passing out, so then it's off to the bed where the real business starts. It's super-efficient. Sweater off. Lie down. Tap, tap on the arm. Squeeze this. That? Yes, this. 'Nice vein'. 'Why, thank you'. Out with the needle; little scratch. Ouch.

Ouch. And more ouch. 'Does that hurt?' she asks. Er, yes. She wiggles the needle. Ouch. 'Does it still hurt?' Ouch. Yes. It seems she's gone in one side of the vein and out the other. I bravely try squeezing a fist for a while but I'm drier than Alabama on a Sunday morning. She's a bit embarrassed, and patches me up. It might bruise, she says. (She's right).

So I skulk in the corner while my wife lines up with the other veterans to receive her golden wheelbarrow. But there's a silver lining. On the way out, they still give me a free drink, and a curly-wurly! Ha! I beat the system! I can go again in 16 weeks. Sign me up.

(With apologies to the late but still great Tony Hancock.)


  1. I always gave blood in the UK. I tried to give blood in the U.S. but they told me they don't take the blood of mutants (or Europeans) due to mad cow disease, which, ironically, they now have themselves. Still won't take my blood in North America though. It's good blood. Untainted by meat (apart from bacon) therefore maybe they'd be better shunning me for swine flu reasons?

  2. They won't take my blood. They practically gave me a pat on the back when I lost so much after I had my first baby. Is it really THAT bad? Jackwads.

  3. you've got to be kidding about the ebay thing right? lol. i tried it once but they wouldn't take it. told me to eat more spinach instead. :(

  4. People bleeding into bottles. I'll never be able to think about donating blood any other way again.

  5. I dared my son to go with me last summer. The bigger they are they harder they fall! Glad you passed they eBay question.

  6. As someone who used to give blood but has been on the receiving end recently (I am still in credit, just) I am very glad that they are giving out curly-wurlies. Used to be a biscuit in my day but I suppose the difference might be that I actually gave some! Well done Uber - keep up the good work and next time give two blobs - you might get a crunchie.

  7. Well done. I write the spooky stuff, but needles, yuck. Or eyes! Still, am inspired to try the bleeding into a bottle.

  8. That's crazy to invade your privacy like that. They're getting your blood for free!


  9. Eugh...i actually found myself feeling a tad sick when you talked about veins. I'd love to give blood but i've been building the courage to do it for about 6 years now. Maybe next year?!

    Good on you though. Well done!


  10. Excellent post UG. Very funny. And you were a lot braver than I would have been. The sight of blood knocks me out like a shot.

    And why can't the NHS nurses look like the ones in your photo?

  11. Small scratch. That's what they said when they did my tattoo. A more accurate description would have been 'This will feel like someone is trying to stab you at 50Hz with a compass for 45 minutes while somebody with unbelievably bad breath stares with concentration into your left man-boob. Oh, and watch out for when it gets near your nipple.'

    And I didn't even get a curly-wurly!

  12. Who decides all those crazy rules? There is no evidence that mad cow can even be spread through blood transfusions and you're probably more likely to be struck by lightning than contract West Nile Virus while you're here. The insanity is making my head hurt.

  13. Hey! I have something for you over at my site!

  14. They really won't let you donate if you have been to North America? That is funny. We are funny on this side of the pond though, I do admit!

  15. I was laughing at your post until I got to the vein and needle part. My head began swimming and I felt queasy. Think I'd be a good candidate?

  16. I have a big problem with needles and the draining of my life fluid into a small plastic bag. You're a better man than I am.

  17. VegeA ~ Go figure! Bacon blood eh? At least you could make a decent black pudding

    MiMi ~ Ow! I hope the baby was worth it

    Sarah ~ No! Every word is true! I never lie, or exaggerate

    BPaul ~ They don't give out crunchies, alas, as they are tainted with mad cow

    tattytiara ~ (Hello! great name btw) Me too, shiver

    BB32 ~ Did he faint then? I sympathise

    Tina ~ Can't wait for the story!

    Secretia ~ I know! The swine

    Lou ~ Go for it!

    Dan ~ You're right. Bring back proper nurses

    Matt ~ Yeah, but who else has a detailed map of the Isle of Wight on their left man-boob?

    Jen ~ It was Gordon Brown

    Alice ~ I saw! Thank you! Post coming...

    Christie ~ (Welcome! Nice blog.) Yup, you're funny but we love you

    Marla ~ Come with me next time; we'll suffer together

    Matthew ~ Maybe, but you're a better writer


  18. ah yes, they always say "its just a little prick" Right.
    I have a sort after blood type, am going to ground incase they find me.....

  19. So well written and right on. What I don't like is you have to make an appt or either you have to wait, wait, wait. I like to go 'give' when the spirit moves me but it doesn't work that way here unless you like to wait,wait,wait! Good for you.

  20. There's an award for you at my place.

  21. I have given blood several times and I am telling you, I still let the profanity fly when that needle touches me.

    I have also never had the FBI interrogation that you experienced, YIKES.

  22. There's a good boy ....well done. from Kate

  23. I see the Curly-Wurly is very significant in your life. I think this indicates a certain enviable seriousness of purpose.

  24. I don't know what a curly wurly is but it must be good.

  25. ha, ha. Really funny and well written post. Well done on giving blood!

  26. No way! Do not tell me they give you a curly wurly these days!! I was a regular blood donor when I lived in Uk and only ever got a plain biscuit!I tried to give blood here and filled in a HUGE questionnaire but they then asked me are you a "vaca loca".... a mad cow? My blood no good over here-lived in Uk at wrong time!
    Need your help do I pass my coveted award on? I have no problem with the 7 things about me but the computer tech stuff!!!!???

  27. Sagi ~ Yes, they said that to me but I thought they were expressing a medical opinion

    Juat Playin' ~ Waiting is right! And thank you, I'm honoured

    JennyM ~ Nasty eh?

    Hair Bows ~ Thank you!

    KateS ~ Likewise!

    Christopher ~ Oh bugger you're right. I thought I was being deliciously random

    Peach Tart ~ Better than good! The essence of life in chocolate, in fact. And toffee.

    BBG ~ Thank you, fellow grump!

    Kate L ~ Actually it was a bourbon. I lied. Oh, the shame.

    I'll leave you a detailed comment on award collection, not that I actually understand it.

  28. Hempstead Girl number 53 December 2009 at 09:58

    It must be a southern thing giving out curly wurly's...we only get plain biscuits in the north!

  29. Right - stop resting on your laurels - just cos you've got a million comments. We need some more grumping (or at least I do) so hurry up or I'll insist on a guest post...

  30. HG#5 - Yo! How's the weather up there?

    BP ~ Gotcha, I'm on it. Re: guest post - just write one! If you can think of anything to grump about...

  31. As someone who had their life saved by wonderful donors like you and L, I am eternally grateful. Though eternally banned from giving blood myself in case I get Mad Cow Disease from my transfusions. Encouraging!

  32. OMG that was hysterical and as a blood bank tech very much appreciated.
    BTW you can't don't here if you have been to the UK during a certain period or for a certain time I don't know I 'm confused too. I don't draw the blood i get it ready to go into patients.

    Thanks for another laugh.. I am now a jolly follower

  33. VokaLogic ~ Thanks and welcome. How do you do that snow?

  34. Hempstead Girl number 57 December 2009 at 22:43

    oh the usual...rain, cold...more rain and getting colder!!

  35. Have you recovered enough to write us another post, UG?