Blood Donation in Taiwan
Blood donation is one of the easiest ways to give back to the society. The process is fast, requires little to no financial contribution and can be done by any healthy person. Did I mention it saves lives too?
In Taiwan, blood donation takes place in donation centres and specially designed buses as shown above. The buses provide mobility and great advertisement, appearing in schools and country fairs. Some buses are parked semi-permanently in popular tourism spots, e.g. Ximen and Taipei Main Station, to draw from the shopping crowd and nearby activity goers.
Amongst all the signs on the bus, the big A and O are the most prominent and they represent the blood types that are running low in the blood bank.
Sometimes organisations will sponsor gifts for the blood centre to give to donors. In this particular instance, the Taipei Blood Center collaborated with Taipei Hot Springs Association and Rotary Club to give donors coupons for hot springs in Beitou 北投. (I found it to be a bit unpractical since you are advised not to go to hot springs within 24 hour of your donation!)
When I approached the bus I was lucky to be the only one in the waiting line. After showing my ID to prove I'm a citizen I quickly got to filling out the required form/questionnaire, which I had to sign at the bottom. The form serves to prove that I do not have HIV or any conditions unsuitable to donate blood. The most common reasons for not being able to donate blood include not getting enough sleep the night before, having a cold, have taken medicine in the recent week, or being underweight. HIV is specifically mentioned because there had been cases where people used the blood donating process to test for HIV (shame on them!!!).
After completing the form, I was led into a small room in the back of the bus. A healthcare professional went through every single item on the form with me to make sure I didn't lie or misunderstand any questions. Then, she took my blood pressure and body temperature. Since I have lower than average blood pressure and barely made the mark, there were several attempts to drive it up. Finally, for the hemoglobin level test, she pricked my finger with a needle and extracted a drop of blood, then dropped it into a bottle of blue liquid. My blood drop sank to the bottom, meaning I was good to go. The test looked like a lava lamp and was very fascinating!
When all that is done, I was finally led to my chair. Sanitised and prepared, the needle went in. I was given a blanket, a conscience callback notice, a juice box and a toothpaste and toothbrush set. The blanket was to keep me warm during the 30 minutes I'll be sitting there, and the rest I could take home.
From where I lay, not much of a view, but I found the promo video to be interesting, detailing the history of blood donation in Taiwan.
A piece of gauze was placed over the needle, perhaps to keep me from freaking out from the sight of the ginormous needle?
As my blood goes into the bag, it is rocked ever so gently to distribute it evenly. I think they also put some of the blood into the test tubes on the side so they could run tests without tempering with the whole bag. (4 colours for 4 blood types, right?)
I was not aware of the time I spent in the chair, but the Taipei Blood Center says it take about 30 minutes for the entire donation process, not including lineups. After the nurse removed the needle and wrapped up my arm, she told me not to lift heavy things, exercise or take hot baths in the next 24 hours. I was also advised to rest for 10 minutes but I was feeling okay so I just upped and left. If you feel dizzy, you can ask for more juice boxes and cookies.
Fortunately I wasn't planning on visiting the famous hot springs nearby or I would have been reeeeeeellly annoyed. Instead, I went to feast on a buffet right after, the waiter saw my bounded arm and he told me to eat more :)
Here is the conscience call back notice I mentioned earlier. If there is any information that might jeopardise the safety of the blood that the donor did not disclose or happened after the donation, they can call the centre who will then destroy the blood. I blacked out the number because it can be used to pull pranks against me should it fall into the wrong hands (eyes?)
A tube of toothpaste as a small token of appreciation for the donor, something practical, but not so expensive that it turns blood donation into a non-gratuitous act.
Overall, I feel like the blood donation process was pleasant and the blood centres are doing wonderful jobs at promoting and maintaining the practice. This was my fourth time donating blood, and I certainly need to do it more often!
When is the last time you donated blood? If you've never done it, would you consider it?