Keeping Up With the Jameses

Adventures in Modern Day Motherhood

In Which Jennifer Gives a Lecture on Platelet Donation October 28, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — mommyoffive @ 2:59 pm

I have selfish blood.  It’s true.  My blood type is AB+, which means that while I can receive anyone’s blood, I can only give my blood to 4% of the population.  Selfish, selfish, selfish.

I used to feel bad about this, although I hoped that all of the good vampires on TV who only drink blood from blood banks would know to drink my blood because it is useless,  and not some nice O neg, which is the world’s most generous type of blood. But maybe even vampires can’t take AB blood.  Maybe AB blood can even be used as a weapon against vampires.  Zombies, too.

I digress…

The last time I donated blood, I was apologizing to my blood sucker guy about wasting his time when my blood is so useless anyway and he said, “Well then, you should be a platelet donor!”


It turns out that while my cute little red blood cells are poison to most ordinary people, my platelets are pure gold, baby.  AB+ is the universal donor type for platelets.  Who knew?  OK, probably anyone who in any way deals with blood on a regular basis would totally know that, but who else would know?

Mr. Blood Drawer person took an extra sample of my blood to check it for platelet counts, and a few days later I got a call from the blood donation center, letting my know that my numbers were great.

And so it was that I became a highly sought after platelet donor.

Now for the reason for this post:

When I mentioned at this month’s book club that I needed a book to read while I donated platelets, some of my friends were baffled.  “Why would you donate platelets?”  “You aren’t getting paid?”  “Why?!?!”

Therefore, my dear readers, it it time for this blog to actually become educational for the next…oh, let’s say five minutes or so.

First of all, you do not get paid to donate platelets or plasma.  That is why it is called “donating.”  Hospitals are not even allowed to use blood products that have been paid for because they don’t want people to lie on their medical forms and give tainted blood because they are desperate for money.

You also do not have to have exceptionally large veins.  I am notoriously difficult to draw blood on, but the phlebotomists at blood donor centers are REALLY good at what they do, and I’ve never had a problem there.

If you’re afraid of needles, suck it up.  The best way to overcome your fears is to face them.

I’m not gonna lie – donating platelets is inconvenient.  So why do I do it?  Because of kids like this little guy.  He used to live in our neighborhood.  In fact, he is the same age as my Jakob.  His mom and I used to spend lots of time together in the mother’s room at church, nursing our cute little Jac(k)obs.

And now, I’m crying.

Anyway, platelets go to the worst-of-the-worst patients (think burn victims, cancer patients and those who have had organ transplants), have a very short shelf life, and are desperately needed.  So yes, donating platelets is inconvenient, but not nearly as inconvenient as watching your child fight for his life, and if there is anything I can do to help families who find themselves in this situation, I’ll do it, all the while remembering how incredibly blessed I am to have six healthy children.

Here is how the process works:

Because a special apheresis machine is used to separate out the blood components, you have to go into the blood donation center to donate platelets or plasma.

You will sign in at the front desk, and then fill out a very long questionnaire to make sure that you are donating healthy blood products.

Next, you have a mini-physical, where your blood pressure, temperature, and iron levels are checked.  Your iron levels have to be fairly high, and I am usually *just above* the cut off, but last week I was one number below where I needed to be.  It was the first time I flunked.  😦  I was determined not to let that happen again, so this week I took Floradix religiously, and ended up bringing my iron level up 6 points.  The blood donation people are now planning on recommending Floradix to all of their donors.  I think I should get royalties.

Having passed the iron test with flying colors, it was time to eat my calcium chews (They make you do this, but I can’t remember why.  Choose caramel.  Trust me on this one.) and get hooked up to the apheresis machine.  Basically, it’s just like donating blood, except that the blood catheter goes through a giant machine instead of just running straight into the blood donation bag.  Also, the chair is heated.  It’s like a spa treatment.

Once you are all ready to go, the machine is turned on, and whammo!  – the platelet donation has begun.  First, some of your blood goes into the machine, then it gets centrifuged, and then the platelets/plasma get sent up to the collection bag and rest is returned to you.  This is not as freaky as it sounds.  It kind of feels like when your hand falls asleep and then you can feel all the blood rushing back in, but you don’t get that pins and needles feeling.

(Here is my arm, all hooked up.  Isn’t my blood pretty?  I will apologize right now for the grainy blurry cell phone pictures I took with my right hand.  It’s easiest to get blood from my left arm, which is a bummer for me, since my right hand is practically useless.)

Then, you just kick back and relax for the next hour or so while the machine does its work.  Blood in, blood out.  The hardest part is staying awake.   Today I read a book (for next month’s book club – hating it so far), but they also have lots of movies you can watch.  You are allowed and even encouraged to eat while you are donating, which is great when they have run out of caramel-flavored calcium chews and only have disgusting chocolate-flavored calcium chews and you need to eat something to get that nasty taste out of your mouth.  Just sayin’.

(The machine looks like something from a bad 70s sci-fi movie.  Lots of spinning and sucking and pumping is taking place here.)

Once your bag is filled, you get unhooked and you are finished!

(My platelets, with some plasma mixed in.  The platelets are the gooey cloudy things.  Isn’t it weird that something that color came from my dark red blood?  Breastmilk also comes directly from blood, which I have always found to be fascinating.  Sorry, men.)

It’s really not a big deal at all.  And it will save lives.  Seriously.

(The incredibly large, tight, and colorful bandage.  You are supposed to leave this on for 4 – 6 hours, since after a platelet donation you will bleed just a *tiny* bit more than normal.  I lasted about an hour before ripping this one off.)

The best part is the snack at the end.  Today I got some Halloween trail mix.  I thought that I took a picture of it, but I was wrong.  You’ll just have to believe me when I say that it was very cute and yummy.

So what are you waiting for?  Go donate!


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