Dates with Dublin #3 – The Irish Blood Transfusion Clinic

It’s probably a bit of a stretch including this in the Dates With Dublin series, but in keeping with the current theme of “doing things I’ve always meant to do but never quite got around to”, last week in a fit of impulse I booked an appointment to donate blood. Over on The Twitter, the bould @FintanToolbox had tweeted about paying  the nice folks in the clinic one of his regular visits, and as, reassuringly, he doesn’t appear to have suffered any visible ill-effects down the years, it served as a timely reminder to get the finger out. So into D’Olier Street I toddled today, and while this doesn’t particularly fall under the categories of exploration, or tourism, it’s something you can do all over Ireland. Bloody marvellous!

First up, a few blood-related facts.

  • 3,000 blood donors are needed each week in Ireland
  • Only 3% of the Irish population give blood
  • 1 in 4 Irish people will need a blood transfusion at some point in their lives – be that as the result of an accident, illness, giving birth etc, In fact 1,000 people receive transfusions every week.
  • One car accident victim may require up to 30 units of blood, a bleeding ulcer could require anything between 3-30 units of blood, and a coronary artery bypass may use between 1-5 units of blood. That’s a lot of blood.
  • Get this: human blood travels 60,000 miles per day on its journey through the arteries, arterioles and capillaries and back through the venules and veins. How awesome is that?

Now the science bit is over, what’s the first-timer experience like?

The offices on D’Olier Street are bright, reassuringly clean, modern and lively. Everyone’s very friendly. There’s music playing in the background, so it doesn’t feel like a clinical environment. There is FREE CHOCOLATE. And FREE CRISPS. The positives were quickly racking up before I even got down to business.

When you arrive, you’re asked some questions, and given a questionnaire to fill out. You’re then given some information to read in your own time. (If you wish, you can have some free chocolate and crisps while you’re doing so.) As a first-timer, I was brought to the interview room to go through the questionnaire in a little more detail, and to be sure I understood everything. You’re told all about the process, and you’re asked whether you’ve eaten and consumed plenty of liquids, all of which help prevent potential fainting. Any questions? Just ask. It’s a thorough process, and it’s reassuring to see the attention to detail.

Then, there’s a fingertip test, to make sure that your haemoglobin levels are sufficiently high. Last night’s spinach gorge-fest did the job, obviously, so I was declared good to go. Iron-heavy fist-pump!

I was pretty damn nervous before being brought into the donation area. It’s been a while since I had any shots and I’m as yet untattooed, so needles and I are not close acquaintances (which is probably not a bad complaint to have), and I’m squeamish at the best of times. But like the brave little soldier I am, I sat down and pretended I was Kool and the Gang as the doc with the big needle approached.  You’re given a little squeezy bone to hold, a tourniquet is applied and the inside of your elbow is cleaned. While you’re wondering what on earth possessed you to spend an afternoon being punctured like a roast chicken, the lovely warm staff deploy revolutionary diversionary tactics to distract you, such as talking to you, and asking you questions, and suddenly, before you know it, you’re plugged in.  Then you just lie back and relax, and deploy the odd fist clench to keep things moving along.  The blood bag is out of sight, so unless you want to have a look, you can’t see it.  If you’re feeling brave, you can take a peek at the needle (it’s bigger than you think, but hurts not even slightly as much as you’d expect). I promise, you’ll feel like a hero, especially when you learn that the average body has 10-12 pints of blood, and you typically donate a pint at a time. That’s up to a tenth of your blood. Huzzah!

Within eight minutes, I was done and the needle was whipped out, I was patched up and escorted to a bed to keep pressure on the wound. I felt oddly fine. No dizziness, lightheadedness or hallucinations (I don’t think the latter is a recognised side-effect). Off I went to the canteen where you’re greeted with the most wonderful view of O’Connell Street and given MORE FREE CRISPS AND CHOCOLATE. Honestly, this is the best place ever. Though it’s not recommended that you do any strenuous exercise afterwards, I cycled home at a leisurely pace and at the time of writing, am none the worse for it.


O’Connell Street, as seen from the canteen in the Irish Blood Transfusion offices on D’Olier Street

So if like me, you’ve thinking of doing this, I’d highly recommend going for it. The thing that struck me throughout the experience, from once I went in the door to when I left, was that everyone was smiling. Even the people with needles in their arms. I think I even cracked a smile myself. I couldn’t speak highly enough the staff – they were so welcoming, reassuring and there’s a lovely atmosphere in the building. I was thanked more than once for taking the time to go in, which I really appreciated. (And there are free crisps. Did I mention that?) Once you’ve donated, you can do so again with 90 days, and I know I won’t hesitate to return in November.

For more info on blood donation, check out the Irish Blood Transfusion Service website, where they give you all the information you’ll need about the blood donation process.

You can follow the IBTS on Twitter and Facebook where they’ll let you know if supplies are running low. You can even check the current Irish blood supply.

But most of all, if you’ve been thinking of doing it – just go for it.

Dates with Dublin is getting more romantic by the moment, isn’t it? Til next time …