The Mind of Bluesleepy

Donating platelets 5 November 2002

Filed under: Uncategorized — bluesleepy @ 4:03 pm

Today I have failed.

Luckily, it’s not something that would go on my record, or something that could mess up a grade.

But you could look at it as something far more serious.

See, I’m a platelet donor. This means that instead of having one large needle jammed in my arm to give a pint of blood in ten measly minutes, I have a large needle in each arm for at least ninety minutes, hooked up to a machine that draws my blood out of one arm and then puts it back into the other arm. Once in the machine, the platelets are separated out of the blood and collected.

A technician once told me that during the whole process, I only lose about an ounce and a half of blood. Pretty amazing, when you consider that they draw out my entire blood supply one and a half times during the procedure.

So who gets these platelets? Bone marrow transplant patients, cancer patients and those with aplastic anemia and other immune compromised patients. And burn victims.

The problem with burn victims is sometimes you know you’re going to lose them, and all you can do is wait. The doctors and the nurses do all they can to prevent death, but all they can do is keep pumping platelets into the burn victims so their blood can clot and they can begin to heal. Most of the time they just bleed out the platelets, and they get another donation that they bleed out also. And the cycle goes on and on, until the person slips away. It’s a shame, but the doctors have to do all they can. Miracles happen every day, and you can’t predict whether someone whom you thought was a goner will recover. But it’s why the Red Cross keeps calling its regular donors, like me, to donate as often as possible. They’re always running in a deficit.

You’re supposed to be able to handle donating platelets better than donating blood. I’ve seen some people getting a little sick after donating blood, getting dizzy and turning white. But since you keep most of your blood, you’re supposed to be just fine when you donate platelets.

Unfortunately, I’m not. The anti-coagulant they use so your blood doesn’t clot just doesn’t agree with me.

When I first started going, I got really sick. Once I felt like someone was sitting on my chest, while my pulse accelerated like a race horse. I was immediately taken off the machine. Another time it felt like my nose was sinking down into my face, which actually hurt. Sometimes I’ll just be very unresponsive — Kurt knows to call the technician when he asks me if I’m ok and I don’t answer him. He also says that I get circles around my eyes when that happens, so sometimes he can tell if I’m sick just by looking at me.

I get the weirdest problems when I donate. Once my veins collapsed on me, and I had to get stuck three times in the same arm before they could take blood out of me. Another time I made the mistake of telling the technician to go for the inner vein on my right arm, and my vein developed a blood clot. The access pressure would drop, sounding the alarm, every few minutes, until finally he gave up and took me off. It was kind of cool when he took the needle out of that arm, but I wouldn’t want to gross out any squeamish people so I won’t describe it here. Once I got very badly bruised from the procedure — both inner elbows were a mass of purple. I haven’t let the lady who stuck me that time touch me since, and she won’t either!!

Nowadays the worst that happens is my entire face will start to tingle, especially my teeth and lips. Sometimes even my nose will. That’s from calcium loss, and I can chew Tums if it gets too bad.

But today I couldn’t donate. My hemocrit score was under 38, and it was the lowest it’s ever been at 36. My iron level was too low for me to donate. Now the lady there tells me to eat Cream of Wheat and sunflower seeds, which will shoot my iron right up there. NOW they tell me!

I made another appointment for the 18th of November, which I had done even before I found out I wasn’t going to be able to donate. I donate as much as possible, every two weeks, because I feel that it’s my duty to help if I can, especially as I have the time right now.

And one day a father and mother brought their little girl in to see everyone. The little girl is four years old, and you could tell not everything was good with her because all her hair had fallen out. She has a rare disease that required her father to donate white blood cells to her, and he still continues to donate platelets. If she hadn’t received his white blood cells (donated by a procedure very similar to donating platelets), she would have died.

Ever since I met this little girl (whose name I can’t ever remember because it’s so unique) I feel even more strongly it’s my duty to help. I don’t mind needles, I don’t mind blood, I’m healthy, and I can donate double donations each and every time.

Someone has to do it. For that little girl, and for all the other sick people in the world.

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