Saturday, 26 May 2012

Blood, Juice and Needles: Donating At The Korean Red Cross

I once asked my English-speaking doctor at the local hospital about donating blood in Korea, and he just mumbled 'yes, you can' and didn't suggest any thing more.

So I tried looking for ways on how to donate, but never really got into it.
Until one day, the Korean Red Cross mobile blood bank came to our office building to accept blood donations! It was actually a huge bus with some medical equipment and small beds!
I was lucky that day there was someone who helped me with the translation during the screening. There must have been more than a dozen questions before I was accepted by the Red Cross nurse as a donor. 
(The nurse filling up my Red Cross registration form and holding the bloody pad for initial testing)

Questions ranged from how many years I have lived in Korea, to whether I have lived in Europe, or I have been to places where malaria was endemic. The nurse also asked whether I was under medication. 

Luckily, the lady who assisted me in translating the questions were patient enough to see me finish the screening, and voila! I passed! With flying blood red color!

Of course, they would extract my precious blood, and later screen the blood of whether it was of royal origin. Ha-ha-ha! (Kidding!)

And after I signed some documents (I wasn't sure whether I was signing away my entire blood supply), I was told to lie down on one of the beds in the bus. I think this was my first time to ever lie down straight in a bus! How cozy!
I am not exactly afraid of needles and the sight of blood. But after watching those gruesome and bloody horror movies all these years, I am so used to them already.
And while the nurse was skillfully pricking my left-arm vein to start the extraction of my sugary blood, I was also getting ready with my cellphone to take photos of the bloody event.
(My fingers trying to hold up that 'two-finger pose. Ha-ha-ha!)

As I lay there filling up the plastic bag (I can't remember how much blood was spilled, er, extracted), I thought that the little inconvenience for me was my time spent for the whole thingy and a nanosecond of pain from the needle. But this negligible inconvenience could not even compare to what medical problem the eventual donor must be going through to need the blood.
I think it took me about 20 minutes to fill up a bag. I think. I lost track of time. But after they withdrew the needle and patched my arm, I was given a biscuit and orange juice, and a tube of BB cream as a token. 
Honestly, I didn't want any gift in return. I just wanted to donate. Period. (And I definitely didn't know what to do with that BB cream. I think I gave it away.)

The next morning, I received a text message from the Korean Red Cross advising me that my blood was accepted. (They must have screened it at the lab.) I was finally a certified blood donor!
(I was asked which organization I would want to receive my blood.)

Here's the English page of the Korean Red Cross in case you want to donate or volunteer:

                  (A little pain goes a long, long way.)

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