Bringing out my inner vampire

Last week I wielded a needle for the first time and drew my first ever arterial blood sample. Impressive for an 8 week old medical student, don’t you think?  Fear not, the patient in question was a fake arm and was feeling no pain! Our Clinical Skills Centre is full of such fun devices to teach us how to perform procedures long before we’re let loose on real patients.


This afternoon, after classes were finished for the day (at 1 o’clock, can you believe?), roles were reversed as I headed up to the Blood Donor Clinic to offer up my veins. Having been unable to donate in The Netherlands (because of the CJD risk, British blood is sadly unwelcome abroad), donating has been a major item on my to do list since I returned to the UK, all the more so because a good friend of mine has needed a number of transfusions over the past few months – this time my donation was very personal.

Ever the trouble maker, I caused some consternation and a conflab around the computer whilst the staff tried to figure out whether the fact that I’d been in Argentina in February would disqualify me from donation.  Once I managed to show them my locations on the map, and explained that I’d only been passing through on my way down to Antarctica (close contact with penguins, it appears, is not a contraindication to blood donation), I was cleared for duty and shown to an empty bed.

Having told my fake arm last week that it would feel ‘a sharp scratch’ when I inserted the needle, I couldn’t help but laugh when the tables were turned and the nurse made the same statement to me.  Hmmm…

After a busy morning, it was pretty nice to sit back and relax, although I noticed that one of the platelet donors was busy working away on a laptop – platelet donation is a far lengthier process.  Blood donation on the other hand only takes about 10-15 minutes, so before long I was done, and after a few extra minutes wait on the bed, was cleared to get up and head over to the tea and biscuits section, whilst my little bag of O+ blood was whisked away to join its friends.

Blood stocks

The current blood stocks in Scotland, taken from

I’d urge everyone that’s eligible to take the time to donate. For those of you in Dundee, there are regular sessions at Ninewells hospital, and you can make an appointment by either turning up at the clinic, emailing or calling 01382 645166.  They’re open at the following times:

  • Tuesday:12.30pm – 7.30pm
  • Wednesday:9.30am – 4.30pm
  • Friday:8.30am – 3.30pm

Alternatively,  you can find other donation sessions in Dundee or elsewhere in Scotland, on the ScotBlood website. Medical students don’t have much of an excuse not to go to the clinic since we’re up at Ninewells everyday.  For everyone else, it’s easy enough to get there by bus (Stagecoach 73 from Perth Road is best, as you can get student rate, or 22 from Hawkhill, if you prefer NationalExpress), or it’s a pretty nice walk through Victoria Park and Balgay Cemetary, with some great views over the Tay, especially right now with all the autumn colours to enjoy.

Autumn colours


If the prospect of saving a life isn’t convincing enough, I can only appeal to the magnetic attraction that free food has for students. Biscuits anyone?

Free biscuits!



Written by:

Natasha is from the UK, but has been working as a software developer in The Netherlands for the past 13 years. She's moving to Dundee on a permanent basis with her 3 cats, and is going to be studying Medicine.

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