Last Tuesday, I bled for my country. Actually, I just gave blood, which is stored in a half-liter plastic bag and will probably find its way inside some happy hospital patient. It’s a cheap way to give to charity in such a way that your contribution won’t be tied up in administrative fees (unless Canadian Blood Services employs vampires, of course).

So, for anybody who is thinking of donating, I’m going to detail my experiences in a simple itemized list.

Needles: 2, 1 tiny and 1 terrifying

Squeezy arm things: 2

When you first step into the clinic, you go over to get your hemoglobin tested. This involves going to a desk that looks like a travel agent kiosk. The nurse pricks your finger with a needle (#1) that looks like a passport stamp. After that, you’re led into a back room where your blood pressure is tested (squeezy arm thing #1), several embarrassing questions are asked of you (Note: If you’ve been in prison for a year, you may not be able to give blood) and you get to choose which arm they suck blood out of. When that’s all done, you’re led to a what look’s like a dentist chair, where they’ll look for the vein in the arm of your choosing (squeezy arm thing #2). Then they bring out needle #2, the BIG one. Now, being the son of a nurse, you think I’d be kind of used to getting pieces of metal jammed in my arm. Unless you’ve guessed, you should know that I am not. Luckily, the nurses at the blood clinic are very accommodating. They put a cloth over your arm so you don’t have to see the machine drinking your blood from the arm. I for one choose a nice friendly corner of the ceiling to look at. Once the needle is in, if you’ve had a brisk walk beforehand, the whole thing will be done in a good 15 minutes. A good book helps pass the time quickly. Once the machine is done and the needle is out, you can help yourself to a rewarding meal of cookies, juice, and timbits.

I came out of the whole ordeal unscathed, save for a sore arm. All in all, the pain, the discomfort, and inconvenience of a blood donation are worth someone’s life. I learned beforehand that my Sister-in-law needed two blood packs when she gave birth to my niece premature this year. (Look, Photos!) It’s really a simple thing, and if nothing else, you get timbits!