We want your blood... but not all of it
Wow, I need to write more often. Oh well, I'll try.
Anyway, yesterday, the Red Cross came to where I work to take blood from donors. I've donated at every blood drive I could since the very first one I was eligible for in high school. I donated all through my college years and I continue donating to this day. (Well, yesterday, anyway.) I figured that now would be a good time to share a couple of some amusing (hopefully!) stories from my donating experiences.
I was always amused in high school when the jocks would race to see how fast they could fill their pint-sized bag with blood. More than once I saw guys pass out for doing so, and it was funny. Once, a girl actually went into convulsions, which was pretty freaky. The nurses were right on top of it, though, and she was okay after minute. (She ended up getting the rest of the day out of classes, though. Wish I'd thought of that earlier.)
When I donated once at college, the nurse asked how I was doing. I told her I felt a little light-headed, but was otherwise okay. I didn't mean that I was about to pass out or anything, but boy, did she ever take me seriously. Before I could say another word, there were three nurses propping my seat back and massaging my legs. (Wish I'd thought of that earlier, too!)
Fast forward several years. At one of my jobs, they had the bloodmobile come out. The nurse who asks you all of those personal questions ("Have you ever had sex with a prostitute, even once?") happened to be a man. Since they are kind of weird questions, I usually try to mess with the nurse a little, just to make the situation a little more light. ("Not that I know of...") The guy was completely oblivious, though. No pause, no smile, nothing. If anything, I think I was irritating him.
So when I got in the little donation pod thing and the nice lady who was my donation nurse came over and asked me how I was doing, I told her I was fine, although the guy who asked me the screening questions was a little creepy. She tells me, and I'm not making this up, "Oh, he's my husband!" I swear, I had a bruise almost from my shoulder to my wrist.
My worst donation experience was the one before yesterday. The Red Cross called me at home and wanted to schedule a donation at one of their donation centers close to where I live. Sure, I said, and I went by there. The nurse couldn't get the needle situated correctly so that she could tape it down, so she just stood there and held it. So far, so good. Except when another nurse behind her called her name. She turns around and says, "What?" as, I swear, I think the needle pokes right on into my elbow. I made a sound akin to a squealing, a sound that I really didn't know I was capable of producing. She turns around and says, "Oh, I'm sorry, did that hurt?" Um, YES!!! After that, the blood stopped coming through, and they had to stop the donation halfway through. My arm was sore for days, something that's never happened before or since. The worst part of it was that I didn't even get a sticker for trying to donate, and the lady up front told me, "You need to remember this, and drink more fluids before donating next time." (I drank two bottles of orange juice that morning, and it was only 11:00am. I don't know how much fluid she expected me to drink.) Obviously, I haven't been back to that donation center.
So that brings me to yesterday's donation. They did something new yesterday, they did an apheresis donation. They wanted just my red blood cells, so they hooked me up to a machine. A pint of blood came out, and the machine spun it and separated it into its components. There were two bags hanging on the machine: one bag held really, really dark blood, and the other held yellow goo. The yellow goo got pumped back into me, and the process was repeated. That way, they get twice the amount of red blood cells than a normal donation.
It was pretty cool, I suppose, although being a relatively new process, and not used to having stuff actually put back into me, I was a little nervous. After it took the first round of blood and I was waiting for it to finish separating it, I was looking down at the "input" tube filled with saline. ("Starter fluid" that gets pumped into you until the yellow goo gets pumped back in.) I asked the nurse, "You know, I probably should have asked before, but am I going to be writhing in pain in a minute when the pumping back in part kicks in?"
She said no, but she did say that the saline and the goo would feel kind of cold. See, body temperature is 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit. Room temperature in there was around 70 degrees Fahrenheit. The saline was 70 degrees, and the goo had lost several degrees while it was in the bag waiting to be pumped back in. She said that it would lower my body temperature, and asked if I wanted a blanket.
I told her no, I was fine. I was a little chilly already, but I can usually handle cold okay. Within five minutes, though, I was freezing my butt off. It felt like cold water was being poured down my arm. That wasn't so bad, it was actually kind of neat. But when the coolness started circulating, I was begging for that blanket!
I don't think I'll do apheresis again. They said I have to wait twice as long before donating again. In my mind, that kind of defeats the purpose of taking twice the red blood cells. I mean, in the end, it all comes out the same. For another, when you give whole blood, they get the red cells, the platelets, and the plasma, and they use all of it. Maybe I'm missing something, but I just don't see how it benefits them. If I do donate through apheresis again though, you can be sure that I'm going to be bundled under that blanket before I start!