Unspoken Conversations are the topics that are often swept under the carpet, whispered amongst the closest of friends and bitched about by many. I want to create awareness about difficult things that people face in life; grief, mental health, money, illnesses, family troubles, relationship difficulties and putting yourself first. I want to tell the truth about things that really matter.

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Why It's Important to Donate Blood! You Can Dooooo It!


The gorgeous Beej looking happy and healthy thanks to a blood donator!
 Today I welcome Belinda-Jane to my blog to remind us of why it's important to donate blood. Now if you're anything like me, you go light headed at the sound of needles and blood, but even I, the weakest of weak, am going to donate, because that simple act can save a life.

Take it away Beej.

My parents have this sticker on the bin lid in the toilet (I bet that makes you want to read on huh!). The sticker is this hippy flower type design and read ‘Blood Donors Love Life’. As a kid the sticker puzzled me a lot, not because it was in this odd location, but because I didn’t understand the nature and reason behind giving blood. Until some 15 odd years later that is.

2010 was going to be the year of firsts for me, I was turning 21, on my first ‘overseas’ trip going on a cruise with my closest friends, playing for a new netball club (Go Doggies!), by the end of the year, moving to my partners farm 7 hours from where I grew up, and my first ever Big Day Out! Well wasn’t I pumped about that! I still had to work most of the day of BDO, and it was a busy stressful day – not to mention hot walking from Fullarton Road where I worked to the showgrounds. So when I fainted watching Calvin Harris not even 30 minutes into being there, I put it down to a lack of food and water on a hot day. And before you assume otherwise, I’d had not even half a can of drink there, and I’ve never even touched a drug (eww…dirty) in my life – unlike the 2 ‘emergency nurses’ who lovingly slapped me from my stupor argued that I had – they on the other hand were very drunk!

So that was the end of that adventure, I was given a ride home from my friend after promptly downing some food and water, and being walked to the gate by my dear friends. I was the only incident that day according to the paper, and apparently it was on TV….I was in a skirt. Shit.

Trying to escape the tent that day was so surreal. I knew something was wrong, so I tried to make it out for some fresh air. A few steps later and the world was going black, so I knelt down until it cleared, stood up, and tried again. I was cold but I was sweaty, I could barely hear the music anymore, and my heart was racing. Again and again I tried, until near the outside of the tent, I knelt down, my eyes rolled into the back of my head, and my head went in the direction with the motion, hitting the concrete like it should my pillow. Then came the aforementioned slap. Fun.

That was the first time I fainted, but it wasn’t the last. I experienced the same thing at the conclusion of the Anzac Day March in my hometown. I embarrassingly had to excuse myself before I’d even finished saying ‘Lest We Forget’ and made it halfway home before I hit the dirt. Again – I thought it was the lack of food before the dawn service that did it. The doctor had nothing to tell me, other than I had to get up from sitting slower, as the blood wasn’t quite keeping up. Good one Doc. Later in the year when I was still having troubles she even had me wear a halter monitor to measure my heartbeats for 24hours – she never told me how that went (GET A SECOND OPINION PEOPLE!).

I started getting cravings to eat ice (the water kind people). It started as just eating the ice in my glass at the pub. Soon I was flogging my partner’s ice out of his glass too. I ended up buying more ice trays for our house because there wasn’t enough and the freezer couldn’t keep up with my ice addiction (haha). I was putting a fresh tray in, and eating the slightly frozen layer of the last one I put in – eventually I started filling the trays with less water so they would freeze faster. People thought this was a diet trick, and in fact I think they convinced me it was too – that I wanted to chew on something, but I wasn’t hungry, so I had ice. Ice all day, even at work. Now I know it is a sign of anaemia…and some other sufferers have also been known to crave dirt and paper. Thank goodness I wasn’t one of those!

The year didn’t go how I had planned. I was really tired all the time, even getting through a drill at netball sometimes had me seeing stars, and I was an embarrassment to myself, my team, and my club when I had to squat down when the ball was at the other end of the netball court so I could catch my breath. I had gone from someone who was running or walking almost every day, to someone who lost breath climbing the 20 steps from the carpark to my office. I didn’t have the energy to go out with my friends on Saturday night. I needed lollies to keep me perked up, but that only brought on more ‘you’re getting so lazy and unmotivated – and soon fat’ guilt, which sent me on the exercise bike. When I couldn’t get through 3 minutes on that without feeling the same fainting symptoms as before, it only made me feel worse. I started to feel pretty terrible about myself. And sadder yet because I was missing the social interaction with my friends who had the energy to go out and dance all night – and though they didn’t say it, I knew they were getting upset with me for my apparent ‘laziness’ or ‘lack of effort’.

One day in September, when my best friend came home to find me cutting my vegies up on the floor because it was too hard to stand up, she urged me to see the doctor again. Netball was over, so I wasn’t worried about hearing something that was going to make me stop playing (nothing comes between me and netball!) and smartly, I went somewhere else for another opinion. The day he got the blood results back (can you believe the other doctor didn’t ask for any blood tests?) he asked me to get to the emergency department immediately because my blood count was really low. Well, I’d been fine this long, so I rang my mum, asked that if after work could she come down to get me and take me to the Royal Adelaide, because by the time she got to Adelaide from home, I’d be finished work too. (Giggle).

I can’t even explain the looks I got from nurses and doctors there. I soon learned that I had not even a third of the red blood cells in my body that a person needed to function normally....huh, that explained a lot. When I’d told them I’d still been working daily, playing netball, trying to exercise and the likes, they could not believe it. One doctor even brought up his students, pulling at my eyelids and lip and lifting my hands, putting his arm against mine and demonstrating how truly pale I was (I’d put that symptom down to a lack of tan with winter/so much time inside!).

Don't let the mosquitos steal your blood - donate instead! Via
While it was never discovered how I’d got this way over that long period, the cure felt like an instant miracle fix. I spent a few nights in hospital receiving 4 blood transfusions and an iron infusion, the only trouble I had was keeping my arm straight so not to stop the flow/set off the alarm, as well as a fever reaction to one of the transfusions, but it made me feel like Wonder Woman when it was all complete.

Never did I think I’d be receiving a blood transfusion, let alone 4. I wasn’t a cancer patient. I wasn’t in an accident or had just given birth and had lost a lot of blood. I was just someone who felt tired and pale, and apparently wasn’t producing red blood cells as I should have been. But if I had not been able to have those transfusions, who knows where I would be now. Every day I am thankful for the people who selflessly gave what was rightfully theirs in their spare time, with no thanks from the receiver of that gift, just their own pride in knowing they have saved a life, or at least made one better.

Beej receiving her blood transfusion!
Now I don’t waste an ounce of my energy, and I don’t put myself down for needing rest either.  I encourage each and every eligible person to donate blood, even if you’re in a regional area, the Red Cross visit most regional centres on a regular basis. You truly never know who you are helping, and how that makes them feel; you could be pulling them back from the brink for all you know. 

I also encourage you to always get a second opinion!

Belinda-Jane x


Jessah said...

You're so awesome for donating blood. Life after infertility...I might actually be able to do it since I'm getting over my fear of needles. :) New follower to your blog.

Amy Laura said...

Thanks for sharing your story! Reminds me I can do it again now :)