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A trip to the Vampires

I gave blood yesterday, in the rather insalubrious setting of Malvern Rugby Club. It’s something I’ve done for years, as I think it’s one’s civic duty to do so if one can. And seeing what a huge difference a blood transfusion made to Christopher’s quality of life when he was ill, has made me even more determined to “do my bit”.  But I really don’t enjoy it – I don’t like needles, get squeamish, and had a nasty experience about five years ago when I fainted clean away when I got up. I think that was due to having had a manic morning at work and not having enough to drink beforehand, but even so I’ve always been worried since then that I’ll have another “funny turn” – which would be rather more serious now that Chris isn’t around to look after me.

The new blood donor chair

But this time, it was a completely different experience. Instead of the old lie-flat padded benches, the hall was full of spanking-new and remarkably comfortable chairs. The arm-rest can be moved to the left or right side (I am left-handed, so insist on them butchering only my right arm). You sit upright in the chair to start with, while the nurse faffs about with the paperwork and cleaning your arm. Then the chair swivels backwards until you are nearly horizontal during the actual donation. They put a cushion under my legs, and instructed me to gently raise and lower my legs during the donation process – at one stage one of the nurses stood in the centre of the hall and conducted six of us like an orchestra or perhaps a ballet as we all waved our legs around in synchrony! The idea apparently is that the exercises stop the donor’s blood pressure from falling too low, and the nurses said that they have had far fewer incidences of people fainting since they introduced them. I have to report that it worked well for me – I didn’t feel light-headed at all.

Once the donation is over, the nurse gradually returns the chair to the upright position – but it’s done slowly in stages so that there is no sudden transition from lying down to sitting up. Again, that has been introduced to reduce the instances of people getting wobbly from sitting up too quickly.

I chatted to the staff about the chairs, which are very new – they’ve only had them for the last five weeks or so. Apparently, they’ve been designed collaboratively through brainstorms with the NHS Blood and Transplant staff, groups of donors, and a design firm. Workshops were held, where the nurses and donors each gave a wish-list of what they wanted to see in a chair.  The design firm then made a number of prototypes which were field-trialled.  Some of the requirements (such as an iPad holder!) didn’t make it into the final design, but the overall result in my opinion is a huge improvement over the old benches. The chairs are surprisingly comfy, wipe-clean, and it’s very easy for the nursing staff to move them from upright to horizontal to somewhere in between. The NHS has retained the Intellectual Property for the design of the chair, and several foreign countries have started to show an interest in having them – so they may even be a royalty income stream paid back to the NHS as a result – the nurse was particularly pleased about that!

All in all, the combination of the new chair and the leg exercises made the whole process of blood donation much easier and less worrying. I was very impressed.

{ 2 } Comments

  1. Paul B | 5 May 2013 at 4:27 pm | Permalink

    I was lucky enough to try one of these chairs when I donated just before Christmas. They had a couple of the new chairs interspersed with the usual flat beds. When I last gave in March it was all new chairs. The staff loved them and the donors were overwhelmingly positive. Good to hear the background behind their development – and, more importantly, that you liked them!

  2. Gillian | 6 May 2013 at 7:35 pm | Permalink

    From what they told me, it appears the NHS has been rolling them out nationwide for a while. Worcestershire would appear to be a country cousin, yet again. But better late than never – they certainly are a big improvement.