...but now I know I can do it.
I've been a blood donor since fall 2003. I started it as a memorial to my mom's dad Bob Nelson, who'd donated a lot in his life; before that I'd kept meaning to donate, but other than once or twice in college, I never got around to it. I didn't make it a habit until -- whoa -- 12 years ago.
This summer the Red Cross asked, nicely, if I'd do platelets as well as whole blood. Blood donation in general was down this summer, platelet donation especially so, and platelets have a much shorter shelf life than whole blood. Scheduling snafu aside, it happened yesterday.
To be on the safe side, I had an unscheduled day -- no concrete plans after the donation. Got to drinking water and juice (not, I repeat NOT, gin and juice, that's bad right before or right after donating) in the morning, then bussed across town to have pre-donation breakfast. This time it was Byways Café, which I don't get to enough. It's a diner that's been in the Pearl District since before the Pearl was the Pearl; unlike a lot of its neighbors, it ain't fancy. It is, however, good. And luckily I was there by myself, because getting a counter seat is much easier and quicker than getting a table. I also had plenty of time to eat, read, and lollygag; I didn't want to over-schedule myself and have to rush anywhere. Then a walk through the North Park Blocks (and Art in the Pearl) to get to a bus to the donation center, and then a little bit of catching up online before entering the platelet donation center (open on Sundays, unlike the whole blood center here), and
After the initial screening -- iron level, blood pressure, pulse, questions to make more sure that you're not carrying anything the Red Cross doesn't want -- I entered the pretty bustling platelet donation room. The reclining chairs are more padded, and there are more blankets: they want you to be warm. Maybe you'll get a blanket when donating whole blood (you'll definitely get one if you ask for it); this time I wound up under three blankets, one for my torso and two for each arm, and for a while I had a heating pad on one arm too. All this helps keep the blood flowing, to keep the body from going Wait, I *DON'T LIKE* losing blood, stop it!
I like that I'm using the Internet, the "series of tubes," to describe myself with a tube in one arm, carrying blood to a machine that separated platelets, plasma and red blood cells, removed the platelets, and sent the plasma and red blood cells back through my other arm. I was even more a series of tubes than usual! I briefly felt very Matrix-y.
I also waited. At a minimum, with set-up plus the draw, platelet donation takes about two hours. Mine took longer due to trouble the attendants had setting up the machine for my draw; at one point before I was hooked up, I reached over and held down a large piece of plastic that my first attendant was having trouble fitting to the machine's top. I didn't want that plastic to fall, so I provided leverage to keep it in place until it was clamped down.
Because you spend a lot of time on the padded chair, you can watch TV. Your choices are major networks, several cable networks, and a decent-sized library of DVDs of both films and TV shows. I chose The Fifth Element, which I hadn't seen in several years and which was on my mind because of a recent Drive Time at the Drive-In show where Aaron Duran replayed Eric Serra's score. Among the many DVDs this donation center had: Darren Aronofsky's Black Swan. Body horror and intense sex in the ballet world? Maaaaaaaaaaybe a little much for a blood draw, but that's me. (They also had the original Predator. I didn't watch that either.) I looked around during my draw, and saw other people watching golf, current-era Doctor Who, the remake of Flight of the Phoenix that starred Dennis Quaid, Woody Allen's Blue Jasmine, and -- this made me smile -- Mad Max: Fury Road. A film where blood donation is a major plot point! And no, not just "blood donated to the desert because the people riding in those vehicles get smashed and dismembered."
And The Fifth Element still holds up really well, 18 (whoa) years later. But that one annoying song Duran didn't play during Drive Time at the Drive-In is still catchy, in the wrong way. Anyway.
You really have to make sure not to move too much, and staying in the position I was in got uncomfortable. My rump was about the one part of me I could move a bit, so I shifted there when needed, but moving your arms too much risks bending the needle and puncturing a vein in the wrong way. If you get too uncomfortable or something goes wrong you can always abort a platelet draw, but once the needles are out, they aren't going back in. I'm so glad I didn't need to. And I know if I do this another time, it'll go quicker and more smoothly. I'll know what to expect.
Unlike my usual whole blood draws, I didn't go first to the canteen to have water, juice/soft drinks or snacks: I first took a piss. THEN I got to the canteen and sat down. Took my time, more than usual, so I'd feel comfortable again. (Tip: definitely go to the restroom right before getting onto the donation chair. As my dad says, "Never pass up an opportunity to take a piss.")
And I relaxed the rest of the day, not doing anything too hard. My post-donation meal was a really tasty loaded baked potato soup, that day's special at Big-Ass Sandwiches, plus a Shirley Temple. And then an easy trip home, and a relaxing night.