In this, the third blog post written by Team Margot Ambassador & bone marrow donor Katrina Krishnan Doyle (KKD), she explains how she addressed her fear of needles in the process leading up to the actual bone marrow donation itself.
I had a huge sense of urgency after being matched and expected to receive a date for surgery in the coming week, but then quickly realised that there was more to it than that.
I had to give blood for testing on four separate occasions. Although, that was because one batch got spoiled in transit and one was taken because we considered changing the type of procedure I would do, so I think it would usually only be two times.
The first time was only four small vials, which is not much. Imagine about two thirds of an eggcup per vial. The second was part of the full medical you receive, but again required about ten vials, which is still less than the half a bag usually given during a blood donation.
I’d tried giving blood after curing my allergies but never managed it without passing out so this was a big occasion for me. I shuffled diaries to secure an appointment for the next day. I didn’t want to give myself too much time to think about it but was also driven by the fact that my genetic match needed me to step up to this challenge, and quickly. I was determined not to pass out and I think it was that sense of responsibility that got me through where I hadn’t managed it before.
My friend Carly accompanied me to help if I did panic. When the nurse started to prep the needles I was feeling cocky and suggested Carly film it. However, I quickly started to feel light-headed and Carly abandoned the filming idea.
She started telling me about a problem she and her partner had with a broken lightbulb in their home. They had ended up having to use a potato to remove the metal casing from the light fitting. It was such a bizarre tale that it totally distracted me and the bloods were taken before I knew it.
I learned that there are three reasons that this is an uncomfortable process for me: first, psychological fear; second, my veins are deep set; third, I’ve had lots of needles in my arms as a result of my old allergies.
Distraction tactics like Carly’s story work for the first but the second induces nausea when the needle is inserted, which passes quickly but can’t be avoided. There is little I can do about the third – it is one of the reasons they target more deep set veins as scarring around past entry points are avoided for medical reasons. I’ve been told resistance training on my arms might lift my veins and make them more accessible, which will be important for my own health and wellbeing as I get older.
Giving blood after that was much easier. I didn’t have Carly with me, but I did listen to talking books, which had a similar effect. I found that making sure the needle is firmly taped in place also prevented nausea. And I insisted on lying down, having some water close by and removing tight or heavy clothing. All of the above made a huge difference and I’m no longer scared of the process in the way I once was.
The other massive benefit from being a part of this amazing process is the insight it gives you into your own health – I feel so proud of my little body and what it’s capable of. When you work constantly, you forget to check in and always think the worst…
Following my bone marrow donation I was removed from the stem cell and blood donation register for two years. I’m determined that by the time I re-register, I’ll be able to give a full bag of blood without fainting, but more on that later.
Team Margot Ambassador & Donor
Please click here to see the next blog from Katrina.