Why I finally decided to give blood at the age of 32 – despite my epic phobia

For as long as I can remember I’ve had a phobia of having my blood taken. I use this turn of phrase, as opposed to “I have a phobia of needles”, because I have six tattoos (and counting!) so it wouldn’t be quite right to say I’m scared of those sharp, pointy things. I’m also fine with having injections, but there’s just something about blood tests that make me feel a bit woozy…

I know I’m not alone in this. I’m pretty sure no one is jumping at the chance to have their blood taken but it really does make me feel funny. Whenever I tell someone about this particular phobia, I always come out with, “It’s just something about that part of my arm…”

Anyway I’m very lucky because my mum, Shelly, just so happens to be a nurse and is somewhat of an expert when it comes to taking blood. She was previously head of pathology at Mount Vernon Hospital in Northwood, and often regales me with stories of how she’s been able to get blood out of patients in the first attempt – when they’ve specifically told her: “You’ll have trouble getting mine.”

So whenever my doctor has told me that I need a blood test, I’ve always insisted they give me the forms and my mum will take it at home. And she has. And I should add she is fantastic at it! Mum has that perfect balance of not letting me faff about, but also manages to make me feel completely at ease.

I’m ashamed (and proud) to say that last week – at the age of 32 – I gave blood for the very first time. I’ve always said I wanted to donate but the idea of actually doing it has made me feel very queasy, but I should never have waited this long to donate.

At the start of this global pandemic, a particular headline caught my eye about blood donations having dropped by 20 per cent, and I decided there and then that I would give blood as soon as possible.

I immediately signed up to the NHS blood donor website and got booked in for my very first appointment at the West End Blood Donor Centre. Unfortunately my first appointment was cancelled due to the social distancing rules, but I phoned them up straight away and rebooked – before I had a chance to chicken out!

However, that second appointment was also cancelled – but I was determined to do it. I called up again and they told me a slot was available in less than 48 hours, so I took it.

I’m not going to lie, I was freaking out the morning of but everyone at the West End Centre made me feel so at ease – and the overflowing baskets of sugary snacks and giant cups of squash kept me going!

It took 6 minutes and 37 seconds (to be precise!) for me to donate 470ml (just under a pint) of the red stuff – and I have to admit, it really wasn’t that bad. Yep, the needle going in wasn’t exactly pleasant but I made sure I didn’t look and when it was removed, I didn’t feel it at all. I had two members of staff looking after me, who were just wonderful and kept chatting away to me throughout.

When it was all over and I’d had a short – but sweet – photo shoot with my bag of blood, it was whisked away to be tested and I began on the snacks. The staff were in no rush to get me out and advised me to take my time in sitting up straight, before getting ready to leave.

I emerged from the West End Donor Centre with a spring in my step, a bag full of crisps, Club biscuits (old skool!) and a donation sticker – which I wore with pride for all to see! And overall, I felt absolutely fine and questioned why I had waited so long to do such a self-less deed…

Days later, I discovered my blood type is B negative – which is one of the rarest types, just 2% of UK blood donors have it. To put that into perspective, 36% of donors have O positive blood which is the most common type.

Needless to say, I will be donating every 16 weeks from now on – as long as I’m healthy and don’t get the sudden urge for a new piercing or tattoo. One donation can help to save or improve the lives of up to three people – who wouldn’t want to do that?!

Following my donation, a friend messaged to tell me she donates as much as she can because her cousin “literally relies on blood transfusions to keep her alive”. That pretty much sealed the deal for me to become a lifelong donor. And I’m just hoping as the years go on, I’ll be a little less scared of having a needle inserted into “that part of my arm”…

To find out more about giving blood and to register as a donor, click here.