This evening I went to SICA on one of my (approximately) thrice-yearly blood donation sessions. I've been giving blood for about 20 years now after my wife persuaded me to start.
At the beginning I suppose I was like many people who don't register as blood donors because they think it will hurt (hardly at all really), or it will take too much time (it doesn't), or whatever. Having got over my initial reticence (helped by going with my wife the first time) I have to say I have never regretted it.
The actual process of giving the blood, from the time the needle goes in to them taking it out again, takes very little time (typically about four minutes for me). Add in the pre-donation screening checks, and the drink and biscuit afterwards and it shouldn't take more than about 30-40 minutes overall. These days it is even more streamlined as you can pre-book an appointment for a time that suits you. They're pretty good at seeing you within about 5 minutes of your booked time, so the days of waiting an hour or more seem to be long gone.
Blood donation is one of those examples of society doing what it can do so well: people getting together for a common good with no regard for reward or remuneration. Knowing that my blood will help an operation go smoothly, or that it might even save a life during an emergency transfusion, is all the motivation needed to keep going. Sometimes the biscuits are pretty good too!
If you haven't given blood before, or you used to but let it lapse, let me encourage you to start. If you simply want someone to go with you for moral support the first time then let me know. To find out more about the excellent work of the National Blood Service or to enquire about becoming a donor, have a look at their web site here. With the expected increase in demand due to this month's olympic games, they're looking to boost blood stocks, so now is an excellent time to begin.
Oh, and now they're at least one further pint short: owing to some EU regulation I was asked to wait another four months before donating. You see, last week an ENT consultant at the Freeman used a layringoscope to have a look at my vocal cords (hoarse voice, occupational hazard apparently). And because some EU countries don't sterilise their laryngoscopes properly, even though the UK does do it properly, I am still not allowed to give blood until any risk of infection has passed.
So, get down there and start giving. I'll be popping down again some time in November or December.