We have busy lives. Training, working, playing. Fit, healthy individuals, full of ambition and energetic pursuit.
We don’t often get to see the other side.
We don’t often get to see that trauma patient, a mother, sister and daughter, caught in a traffic accident, who has lost most of their blood volume, teetering on the edge of life and death.
That man with cancer, holding their child’s and wife’s hands, together fighting this disease, now desperately in need of blood for some precious time.
That child with leukaemia; that child who is yet to live a life, innocently staring up in hope.
We, as athletes, don’t often get to see how crucial freely available blood is, how much it can help sick people.
We meticulously plan, train, eat, sleep in search of that bit more performance, another race, another experience. But some people just aren’t as lucky as us. Yes we’ve fought for it, but so have they. And they’re fighting now. For their life.
Our blood, something to simple, so easily available, so replenishable, so completely free.
We’re the kind of people that would do extreme events and challenges for charity, raising money and awareness. So why wouldn’t we do something so simple to save a life?
Time is the most precious commodity in this world; we have it, they don’t. You can give it to them.
Let’s be role models. Show people a healthier, more vibrant, free, invigorating way of life. But without blood, some people just can’t have this life we are fortunate to lead, no matter how much they may want it.
Have I got your attention now? Then read on.
What about training?
Donating blood will affect your training, briefly.
A normal blood donation is just under a pint (470mls), about 13% of your blood volume.
So what’s in blood? Plasma – the fluid; red blood cells – which take oxygen around the body; white blood cells – part of the immune system to fight off nasties; platelets – which help the blood to clot; and proteins and other bits and bobs.
Although you can replace your volume very quickly, replacing all the cells takes a bit longer. Your white cells and platelets will return pretty quickly but it can take a few weeks for your red cells to be replaced.
Millions of red blood cells are made in the bone marrow and released into the bloodstream every day replacing old knackered cells. Red blood cells contain haemoglobin, an iron-rich protein that carries oxygen around your body. To make red blood cells and haemoglobin constantly, you need a healthy bone marrow, iron, and other nutrients and vitamins which we get from food.
Some of this haemoglobin and iron is lost in each donation, so to compensate, your body mobilises some stored iron, and increases the amount absorbed from food and drink. If you don’t recover properly afterwards, your iron levels could fall leaving you with an iron deficiency… which if not corrected, could lead to reduced haemoglobin levels, and iron deficiency anaemia. This will leave you feeling pooped.
Don’t panic, its easy to recover
With a healthy balanced diet, getting enough iron shouldn’t be a problem.
You can help boost your iron levels by eating a variety of iron-rich foods, such as lean red meat, poultry, fish, leafy green vegetables, brown rice, lentils and beans. Perfect. A great excuse to have a steak with some leafy green veg for dinner.
You can also easily replace the fluids you’ve lost by drinking lots (of water please, this isn’t an excuse to sink 5 lagers down the local…do that post-race some time) before and after donating.
Back to training
After donating, haemoglobin levels can return to normal anywhere between 20-59 days later. However, you can get back to training much earlier than that. Although I wouldn’t advise training straight after donating, a light session the next day won’t harm and soon you can be back to full training.
If you are stuck into some hard training or in your race season, then I wouldn’t advise donating now, but get yourself registered ready for when all the racing is done, and you’re relaxing during the off-season or getting some base training in.
Where to go
The process is super quick and easy: you’ll first read a bit of information and do some health screening before getting your haemoglobin levels checked. Once thats done you’ll hop up on a chair (like this cheesy bugger below), get poked with a needle, then its time to sit back and relax. The bag will be full in 5-10mins then its tea and biscuits time before heading home!
So what are you waiting for? Save a life, give blood.
Who knows, you might even need some of this good stuff after coming off your bike…
Young, fit, healthy individuals. Perfect blood donors.