Blood for Biscuits

On the surface it looked as wholesome and innocent as any other community centre. The noticeboard stabbed with posters for seniors Tai-Chi. Old metal chairs that scraped and clanked. Young hoodlums in beanies clustered round a half-size pool table. An urn and a stack of polystyrene cups. But today, for me anyway, the community centre was the embodiment of evil. It was Blood Donor Day.

When Gareth first asked if I wanted to give a pint, I flatly refused. I don't have a problem with blood, it's just all the paraphernalia they use to extract it. The big bitey needles, the tourniquet thingy, those vile plastic bags and little tubes. Especially the big bitey needles. When I last got a tetanus shot the doctor had to hold my hand and promise me jelly beans, and I was twenty years old. I hate the needles. But at the last minute I decided to go out of pure pride and stubbornness. I couldn't have him thinking I was too wimpy to donate blood, especially afterward when he'd be all smug and righteous and full of free biscuits.

It seemed I was the only person in town who had a problem with the process. The queue stretched down the hall and halfway out the door. Were they all here out of a sense of caring and community, or had they heard about the free biscuits? As we shuffled to the front I could see the neat rows of metal trolley beds, the donors with narrow tubes spiraling from their outstretched arms. My stomach lurched.

A nurse smiled from behind a clipboard. "Is this your first time hen?"

I nodded meekly.

"You're going to be fine!"

There is nothing less reassuring than someone blatantly trying to reassure you. And as usual, my nerves transformed into a desperate need to pee. "Gareth! Where's the loo?"

"Down the back and to the left."

"Back and to the left. Just like JFK."

I perched on the loo, muttering to myself. You must do this, you big pussy! It's easy! It's painless! Millions of people do this every day and they're totally cool with it! And then I heard frenzied footsteps, a gagging sound and a cubicle door slamming shut. There was a groan. Then a moan. Then, "BLLLLLLLLLUUUURGH!"

After hearing that vomiting concerto I almost ran home, but I skulked back in for my interview with the nurse. I tried my best to flunk, emphasising that I was an Evil Foreigner and lord knows where I've been. But I hadn't travelled to any of the countries on the Dodgy list, I had no recent piercings or terrible diseases and my iron levels were healthy. It seemed my blood was ripe for harvesting.

"And finally, has your partner had sex with another man?"

"No he hasn't," I said, tempted to add that he does have these very tiny lycra shorts that he says are for mountain biking…

"Okay you're fine, just wait on the chairs over there."


I'd conjured this whole hellish image of how it would go. I'd be chained the bed and there'd be a giant empty bag hanging from a meat hook while a fanged nurse stood over me screaming, "Bleed more! Bleed more!". But instead the nurses were friendly and chatty and said "ken" a lot.

"Mary, d'ye ken my boyfriend?" said one nurse to another as she directed me to the bed. "He's always snowboarding, right, always getting bruised or breaking his legs and I was getting sick of it. So I made him a pair of shorts out of bubble wrap! Hold out your arm, love."

My veins were even wimpier than I was. As soon as she started squeezing and prodding they disappeared under the surface, refusing to surrender my precious blood. "They looked quite smart! I couldn't keep my hands off his arse, just popping that bubble wrap! Pop pop pop! Ooh, I cannae get a vein here. Mary, we'll need a left arm here! Have we got a left arm free?"

"One over there!"

"Okay, we'll have to move you Shauna, but did I tell you that I got a new phone delivered today? My boyfriend called me to say it had arrived and I asked him to look inside the box, and he says 'Ooh it's covered in bubble wrap, you can make me another pair of shorts!' Isn't that funny? She's not laughing, Mary. Do you think she thinks we're crazy? Off you go hen, over there, you'll be fine!"

My new bed was right near Gareth's. He was already half done, laying back looking calm and relaxed; the seasoned veteran. Bastard. The guy next to him was furiously texting with his non-donation arm.

I had a different nurse, but equally friendly and reassuring as she fired up the needle. My left arm was completely obliging, rolling over and offering her an assortment of plump veins. I scrunched up my eyes and before I knew it the needle was in and I was bleeding for Scotland!

It was a rather strange sensation. I willed myself to think of un-bloody things, rather than wonder what would happen if the nurse decided to go out back for a smoke and forgot to turn off the tap. Would I just drain and drain til I was just a bag of skin and bones and blubber and undigested lunch laying on the bed? I looked over at my husband instead. He was gazing up at the ceiling all sweet and serene. I felt a great rush of tenderness. He has this way of encouraging me to try new things even though I whinge and complain and worry things out of proportion, then he'll just smile and not laugh when I finally discover for myself that it wasn't so scary after all. What a guy. What a catch! And then he looked over, screwed up his face at me and made his lips curl and eyes bulge in what could only be called The Gollum Face. Charming!

Ten minutes later the nurse declared she had the required 568 mililitres and I could now proceed to the refreshment area. PEOPLE OF SCOTLAND, listen up. If you surrender just one pint of blood you can freely select from a range of quality biscuits. I thought they'd just plonk down a shitey packet of Tesco Value Assorted but there was Walkers shortbread, McVities digestives, Tunnocks Tea Cakes and something new to me – the Jacobs Club. Apparently they were an 80s lunchbox staple and not as good as they used to be, but to me it was the euphoric meeting of mint and chocolate AND biscuit. I ate two.

Now that I'm over the fear and feeling smug, I'm quite excited about this blood donor business. They only ask you to do it three times a year, and apparently just three tablespoons of your ruby fluids can save the life of a premature baby! Not only will you feel good for doing something helpful, the nurse will order you to go home and DO NOTHING all evening. Which is quite possibly the most convoluted excuse I've ever used for skipping the gym!

So even if you're a complete and utter wimp like me, why not give a pint? Just lay back and think of the biscuits!

About Shauna Reid

Ahoy there! Iโ€™m Shauna, an author, copywriter and content mentor. I love telling stories about life and helping others to tell theirs.

Find out more about me and how we can work together – I’m now booking for January 2022.

38 thoughts on “Blood for Biscuits

  1. You are much braver than me. I love biscuits, but not enough to have a needle jabbed into my arm so that copious amounts of blood can be drained from my body. Did they give you a cup of tea, too Sounds like the least they could do . . .

  2. hiya kim! believe me i am the biggest wimp on the planet and i lived to tell the tale! they don’t give you hot liquids if it’s your first donation but apparently next time you can knock yourself out with the free tea. biscuits AND tea is even more exciting!

  3. I decided to give blood when I was 13 so I could get a Blood Donor ID card.

    After swimming 5 events at the Rgional swimming carnival in a heatwave, I marched in to the mobile blood bank,put up my age by 5 years, lay on the bed and filled the bag.

    When I went to stand up I promptly passed out, fell on the floor and needed first aid.

    That ID card came in very handy for seeing bands in pubs for about the next 10 years….

    (I also have a rare blood type and used to think it might be me getting it back if I had an accident!)

  4. In Australia, if they can’t get a vein (after trying both arms) they put you down as a DNB — Did Not Bleed. I thought that was pretty cool… until it happened to me four times.

    As for what happens if they don’t come back to take it out, well, it shuts off a valve or something at the limit and then hurts like… well, like there’s a needle in your arm that you can’t bleed into. And you spend a few minutes giving the evil eye to the nurse who is calmly finishing the dregs of her coffee. One time I got close the threatening to rip it out myself. I should have tried and seen if I got put down as Did Not Cooperate.

    Orange Blood Bank does really good milkshakes, but only average biscuits.

  5. For Melbournites, I can report that the central donor centre in Bourke Street has by far the best food out of any of the three that I’ve been to. The Southbank one is passable, but the Northern donor centre at LaTrobe Uni has a vegetarian selection that consists of two lumps of cheddar cheese and a couple of Jatz crackers stuffed into a little plastic bag that breaks the Jatz into tiny shards as soon as you rip it open. At Bourke Street, you can look forward to a spinach and fetta roll that hasn’t even been microwaved! No mint slices, though, as far as I’m aware.

  6. Hmmmph – I used to give blood three times a year but now they won’t take it here in Oz ‘cos I lived in the UK for 2yrs while Mad Cow Disease was in the beef.
    Damn it – those spinach and fetta things sounded nice too, although I bet the Frankston centre doesn’t have anything like that.

  7. 7 minutes to fill the baggie! can anyone beat that? I’m just SO good at this bleeding thing….

    Parramatta has sausage rolls and fruitcakes…

  8. I started donating at 18 because they give out Cookies by George here, which are these great big gourmet cookies with heaps of chocolate. Also they do soup & light hot lunches.

    They sent out a questionnaire asking the donors why they donate. I imagine most people had a heartbreaking sob story, but I wrote “It’s all about the cookies”.

    Oh, and I was blessed with dual superhighways in the crooks of my arms. It takes me five minutes to donate 450 mL. This makes the whole process about a million times easier…

  9. I want to donate, I really do, but the thought of having metal inside my arm that has nothing to do with raising a fist to the heavens in appreciation of a rawking guitar riff makes me all squeamish in the tummy. Although I enjoyed getting my tattoo, getting that done almost made me, ahem, make my pants need washing up.

    However the Bourke St one sounds intriguing. Are you allowed to be drunk when you do it? I’m almost always drunk, I don’t have a blood-alcohol level, I have an alcohol-blood level.

    The wee prem baby that gets my few teaspoons is gonna have one helluva hangover in that little glass cage the next day.

  10. Yes.. I have wanted to give blood for many years but here in Aust, as in Scotland I imagine, if you’ve ever had homosexual sex (as I am happy to admit that I have), you can’t donate… even if you have had a recent test with negative results. It seems you just never know what those filthy poofs get up to…

  11. So glad you posted this, hopefully the great food afterwards will help encourage more people to donate!

    I’m Ms Wimpypants when it comes to having needles stuck in my arm, but I know it’s helping a lot of other people.

  12. One of my best friends works as a phlebotomist for the American Red Cross, and the stories she’s told me about people puking, having seizures, fainting, spurting blood across the room, oh man am I ever not letting anyone anywhere near me with one of those macabre kits to drain away my life fluids. I like my life fluids where they are, thanks.

  13. Gosh, the hospital here that has the blood bank gives out free CHOCOLATE MILK! If there was ever an incentive to go donate, thats what’ll hook me in.

    Of course, I’ve never actually donated. I went in with a friend once, and they rejected my blood, but they let me drink the free chocolate milk anyway! And take a mini-Twix and a Scotch Finger for the journey home.


  14. Oh shauna,

    Diya ken my Bruce?
    when i read that stuff about gareth encouraging you to try new stuff and you winghing and him not laughing …well it so reminded me of my BH, Bruce. we’re 21yrs down the track so baby you’ve found a pearler


  15. Well, I am the biggest wimp in the world, especially when it comes to the red stuff. I always knew I should donate and only worked up the courage a couple of years ago. Only 2% of the population donate in Scotland, which is SHAMEFUL. I gave three times in England and then moved back up to Scotland – and every time I’ve been since, they’ve been unable to get me to bleed. Which is just SO ANNOYING.

    But people! Don’t let squeamishness put you off – you cannot be more squeamish than me and I can do it. I dare you. You feel very noble and smug afterwards, which is even better than a free Tunnock’s teacake.

  16. I’ve tried to give blood three times, and am still getting knocked back because I’m having sex with the same person – and nobody else – over the course of the last five years. Go figure.

  17. Gareth sounds like a gem.

    I recently commited to making the final donation: organ donor. So that’s my excuse for not donating blood sorted ๐Ÿ˜‰

  18. Ah yes, but have you seen the Blood Type Game? In a fit of geekery, I got addicted to this game once and played it nonstop for two days.

    I used to give blood all the time when I was younger, but since then I’ve had two bouts of Lyme disease (do you have that in the UK?) and I’m not sure they’ll still take me. Plus my veins have gotten all uncooperative on me–it’s a major production just to get a little vial’s worth at the doctor’s, I can’t imagine what it would take to give a pint. I’ll try again soon, though.

  19. Forget blood for biscuits, in Ireland its bloody for Guinness! It replinishes the iron, and packets of Tayto and ‘I give blood’ pencils.

    If you live in Dublin and get to to to Pelican house rather then a mobile blood unit, they even have Guinness on tap. Always a good starting point for a night out!

  20. GUINNESS?!? you are shitting me!

    these comments are tops, guys. fascinating to see what you can get elsewhere in the world.

    lady meerkat – he totally IS a gem and seems to be getting more gem-like every day. i really love being married to him, but i haven’t written much about it coz i don’t want to be nauseating!

    robert – and yep it still feels weird to husband, i always giggle after i say it as if i was ten years old and called someone a poopoo head! ๐Ÿ˜›

  21. Why do English / Scottish biscuits have such non-appetizing names?

    Here in the Land o’ the Free (and fat) we have COOKIES with names like “Chips Ahoy!” and “Chips Deluxe” and “Fudge Shoppe” and “Golden Vanilla Wafers” and, the King of the Cookies , “Double Stuff Oreo”.

    Otherwise I might NEVER drink milk.

  22. i have an insider connection in our blood-bank and she warns me when the blood-sucker-squad will visit anywhere near me .. i’ll stay home that day .. the sticking with needles is bad enough .. but the smell makes me pass out .. i concider myself to be a compacionate guy, but when it comes to being a donor … no way in hell!!!

    and they can’t have my liver either! .. i’ve seen the movie, i know how they work! ๐Ÿ˜‰

  23. Oh Shauny, JACOB’S CLUB BISCUITS!! I was virtually raised on those things. Try the orange ones – they are delicious! Or the raisiny ones. Now that I’m in Oz I am missing UK biscuits terribly, but am managing to dull the pain by investigating everything that Arnotts have to offer ๐Ÿ™‚

  24. Biscuits – NOTHING beats a Kingston, absolutely nothing on Earth. They are like little drops of golden God-poo – and there’s no way known to man that God’s poo could taste like crap.

    Hmmm, turn gay – or at least have a one night stand with a well hung Alex Dimitriades – and have a perfectly reasonable excuse for not giving blood. I think you might be onto something there kiddo.

  25. I can’t give blood in the US because I lived in the UK for a semester. So does mad cow not count if you’re already there? Do they assume you’ve all already been exposed to it so there’s no point in trying to contain you?

    It pisses me off that I can’t give blood anymore; the Red Cross center I used to go to had pizza as well as cookies. Once I even got Ben and Jerry’s ice cream.

  26. Well done and with every donation you will save three lives. No kidding with one bird to keep alive three….

    There may be no greater act of bravery for someone with a fear of needles than to donate blood. Of course, it’s this kind of giving that is so important to maintaining the Red Cross’s life-saving stocks …

    Big Hug from 0 Positive who is partial to biscuits

    Lucky you are domesticated now Shauna ;-D Wild Pussycats No More?

  27. Organ donation just isn’t the same. No, to get that glorious feeling of selfrighteousness and superiority while being alive to enjoy it, there’s no beating giving blood ๐Ÿ™‚

    I carry a donor card but am illogical enough to tick everything but corneas. Although I know it won’t matter when I’m dead, my eyes are going with me when I go. Anyway they don’t seem so life-and-death as hearts, kidneys and so on.

    I’m sorry to hear that our departed mad cows are still causing trouble. I think they ought to make an exception for vegetarians! Anyway, even I ate beef back in the 80s, so if I was going to be infected, I already am… and I imagine that goes for most of us. As for the gay ban – how stupid is that? They test the blood for HIV and other nasties anyway! OK, I can see they have to be careful, but if they won’t let you do it even with a recent test…

  28. I’m another mad cow reject. But before I went to the UK I used to donate regularly – it worked really well with my student lifestyle – being able to help someone else whilst living on a low income, getting free biscuits and sandwiches, and getting pissed faster afterwards.

  29. hehe… the oldies reading (no not me) this will remember when the SNBS used to give you a pint of GUINESS after a donation!! yep tis true… just ask any oldie… mind you going back to work on a friday afternoon after donating 10 pints was not recommended.. in fact its prob the reason why they say go home – if you could find your way home- and do nothing.. me? i dont give blood now .. gave up after my 20th pint… thot id done me bit .. and anyway some of my gf’s were starting to look like men?? B?P or was it too much guinness ..ah well


  30. oh it worked?? what did i do right ?? i didnt get banned for bad words?? oh *shaking*

    i forgot to mention that a bit down the line of donatingness you’ll get a nifty tie pin with a heart on it .. i got a gold one but lost it .. in fact i cant find the tie either so its probably still on it as i tend to remove it untied so i dont have to get a woman to tie it for me again …

    hope you a gareth are well and have nice weekend

    bobby *gone*

  31. I gave blood once with the intent of giving blood regularly, but afterward I was so disoriented that the nurse made fun of me and I was pukey for the next three days. I was weak and could hardly do anything physical and if I took even one sip of anything with alcohol in it, I almost puked. I’m such a pussy. Helping people is nice but not if I can’t have a drink for a few days. Nothing’s worth that.

  32. Hey Shauna, love the site. I always pop in to give blood in the Buchanan St. donation “shop” in Glasgow as part of my Christmas shopping survival technique. Unlike everywhere else at this time there are no huge queues, you get to put all your hunners of bags down safe in the knowledge that some blood donation wifie has her eagle eye on them. You get your tea and biscuits for free and the best bit of all during Christmas shopping: YOU GET A LIE DOWN. Brill. If you fake light-headedness you can lie down longer AND get a blanket. You can shop on feeling righteous or decide that you cannot go on due to weakness and no-one can argue. Win-win situation. And they are always delighted to see you during the festive season as everyone forgets.

    My uncle also told me to give blood before a night out on the town if I was down on funds, as you need less alcohol to get stocious. Perfectly true. Bargain.

    If you go to the mobile blood donation centres at universities round about lunch time, you will see all the students who didn’t have breakfast and are bunking class before lunch to get a longer lunchtime pass out. They do it en masse. It’s sometimes better than the tv.

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