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Critical care blog: Give blood for the cause

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When critical care nurse Cassandra Leese decided to give blood, it turned out to be an inspirational experience - and she wants you to follow suit

I do something amazing…

Or so says the small red card that dropped through my letterbox yesterday, two weeks after I gave blood for the first time.

As a critical care nurse I’m somewhat ashamed that it's taken me so long, but I hope to make up for it by giving away as much of the red stuff as possible in the years ahead.

Curious to know whether I was the only soul who had often thought about giving blood but never quite got round to it, I asked a number of colleagues from critical care units about blood donation. Despite all agreeing on the importance of blood donation, only a handful were active donors.

Blood transfusions are obviously commonplace in intensive care, and training on blood products is always a high priority. We’re all well aware of the impact a blood transfusion can have upon a patient’s life.

Is it because, as nurses, we want to stay well away from anything remotely medical in our free time? Nope, too many of us watch Holby City to support that argument. It might just be that working 13-hour shifts is exhausting and days off seem to rush by at the speed of light.

Consequently, giving blood keeps dropping off the to-do list. To counteract the falling number of blood stocks, advertising for blood donation is more prevalent. Despite this, the National Blood Service found that last year only 4% of the eligible population are active donors.

So, inspired by my exciting little red card telling me I’m amazing (something ALWAYS welcome to arrive in the post), here are the reasons that I’ll be going to donate again...

Firstly, the whole process took under an hour and the people-watching is fantastic. I found myself waiting alongside a group of Indie-style teenagers humming along to their ipods, a young couple entwined around each other until they were escorted to their separate couches, single men, mothers with restless toddlers and people ranging in age from 16 to 70.

Secondly, being in a room with such a range of people, all waiting patiently, made me feel more than a little humbled. The whole process is slick and well organised, and the actual donation quick and painless.

Finally, I was escorted to a table expecting to be force-fed the sweet tea and biscuits my mother had told me about, when I was offered a vast array of drinks and snacks, and invited to rest until I felt sufficiently ready to carry on with my day.

There’s something wonderous about seeing your blood in one of the small bags you use every day at work, and knowing that your blood might just be used to help save a life. That, and getting a free chocolate bar as you walk out the door feeling gleefully virtuous.

It wasn’t until I was back on the intensive care unit, actually administering blood again, that I began to appreciate all the work that goes into getting one unit of blood from volunteer to recipient. This really matters. Why don’t more of us do it?

Click here for details on how to give blood, or call 0845 7711 711.

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