A Pint Low

I donated whole blood today.  I have been unable to donate for nearly two decades, due to chronic anemia.  The last time I attempted (and failed to meet the minimum iron level) was either the immediately following the Andover tornado of April 1991 or the Oklahoma City Bombing in April 1995.  Apparently, April just isn’t a good month for me to donate blood (or to dodge tornadoes and bombs).

I solved my anemia problem last fall and have felt much less tired these past few months.  I thought it was time to try to donate again.  I really disliked not being able to donate because I’m a universal donor and I am Rh negative (somewhat rare).  When an e-mail came out at work a couple of weeks ago concerning a sponsored blood drive for the Community Blood Center of Greater Kansas City, I took the plunge and scheduled an appointment.

For the last two days, I made sure I drank plenty of water, something I routinely do anyway. I got a fairly good night’s sleep last night, albeit only six hours instead of seven. Summertime late sunsets encourage me to stay up past my bedtime most weekdays.  Today, I ate a good breakfast, continued drinking water throughout the morning, and ate a light lunch immediately prior to my appointment, set for high noon on one of the hottest days of the year (thus far).

The library in the lobby of the building where I work provided the space for the blood drive.  I took myself, and my photo ID, downstairs and arrived a few minutes early, knowing I’d have paperwork to fill out and questions to answer.  I waited at the door for a few minutes, but got through the registration process fairly quickly.  My draw number was twenty-five, so I settled in to wait, reading  a book on my Nook and sipping on a bottle of water.

I barely got two pages read before my number was called.  Now I had to pass the health screening.  My blood pressure came in at 126/76, slightly elevated from my most recent readings.  I put that down to nervousness.  My pulse was 85 and my temperature at a cool 98.4 degrees.  The final test involved a finger prick to gauge my hemoglobin levels.  I held my breath as the small desktop testing apparatus analyzed my blood.  After a few seconds, a reading of 13.5 appeared on its screen.  I let out my breath and grinned.  The minimum level required is eleven.  My forearms were reviewed and approved for puncture.

Next, I was herded to a reclining bed/lounge chair and the real fun began.   A blood bag with hose and needle attached and several vials for blood testing were prepped and deployed around my left arm and side.  I was given a  ball to squeeze so the health care professional could find my veins.  She scrubbed my forearm for nearly a full minute and then stuck a rather large needle in my arm.  She instructed me to squeeze the ball for five seconds then relax for five seconds.  Apparently, in my enthusiasm to pump blood out of my veins, I squeezed the ball too hard.  She came back and told me to ease up and that I only needed to squeeze as hard as I would if I were holding hands with a toddler.  Whoops!  I would have crushed their hand had I continued as I had been.

After a  minute or two, I began to feel the affects of the blood leaving my body.  I’ve felt this before so I wasn’t worried.  But soon, I began to feel very light headed, very warm and my vision started to darken.  Apparently, my complexion also drained of color, because a health care professional came over to me and asked how I was feeling.  I said I felt a bit light headed.  So they reclined me until my head was lower than my heart, raised my knees and placed cold damp paper towels on my forehead and neck.  In just a few seconds, I felt completely normal again.  I continued gently squeezing the ball while lying down and after about ten minutes I had filled my pint bag full of blood.

Even though I was feeling completely normal again, the blood drive personnel took very good care of me and made sure I didn’t faint when I sat up or stood up.  I drank some apple juice and guiltily consumed two Oreo cookies.  I received a donation sticker and a blood drive t-shirt, as well as cast my vote in the police department v. fire department ‘Battle for the Blood’ campaign.  I also submitted an entry to win two tickets to the All-Star Game festivities.  I’ll keep my fingers crossed for that one.

I returned to my desk on the ninth floor and whizzed through the rest of the afternoon, hardly missing the pint of blood I left in the lobby.  I drank plenty of water, knowing the long drive home would be torture, driving west into the sun in 105 to 110 degree scorching heat.  No, I won’t be walking Apollo this evening.  I’ll be taking it easy with him on the couch, in the air conditioning, reading a book and sipping an iced tea.

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