Double Ouch -- 01/11/03

I tried to give blood this morning.

Tried both arms.

It didn't work...

Well, I do present a challenge to phlebotomists -- the veins in my arms apparently are slippery and inclined to roll -- if all goes well, if the needle goes in just right, then there's no problem, fill the bag, have juice and cookies, come back in a couple of months and do it again. But sometimes the vein rolls and the needle slips off instead of going in, so they have to try it again. At least twice in the past they've had to give up on that arm and move to the other (it doesn't matter which one they pick, I present the same difficulties on both arms) -- and, of course, I would joke as I left with bandages on both arms that I would tell everyone I had donated two units of blood, one from each arm.

I had an appointment to donate at eight a.m. You aren't supposed to engage in strenuous activity after donating blood, so I knew that if I wanted to get in a workout today, that I would have to get up early to do it. Well, I tried to get up really early but I was tired and didn't actually drag myself downstairs until almost 6:30. Okay, cup of coffee, drink lots of water, down to the basement and onto the treadmill. A couple of miles later get off and start lifting weights. Finish, dash out front to retreive the morning paper from the driveway, a quick dish of cereal, lots of water (especially important to be well-hydrated before giving blood) another cup of coffee, a quick shower, and off to the blood center.

It's the same nurse who did me eight weeks ago, not a bit of trouble that time, worked perfectly. This time it isn't working out. She's trying to get the needle in my left arm. Calls another nurse to help. Am I hurting you? Well, duh... you're just jabbing a needle in my arm... Give up on that arm, go to the right arm. With both arms it seems as if once the needle does get in, things just close down. Calls the head nurse over. She asks me if I've taken in lots of fluids. Yes, I tell her, I know to do that, especially since I was working out this morning. Oh, what were you doing? Running on a treadmill and then lifting weights. Oops, apparently lifting weights is not a good thing to do before giving blood.

So I left with bandages on both arms but without succeeding in donating... I did make a new appointment for two weeks from today and promised that I will not lift weights that morning.

I did get a coffee mug. My previous donation represented two gallons so they gave me a blood center coffee mug. That's two gallons since I moved to Rhode Island... that's seven years, but I was only eligible to donate for five of those years (each of the two times that my periodontist did bone grafts made me ineligible to donate for one year). I've lost track of my grand total... I had been thinking that it was probably around five gallons, but I think my total before moving here was almost four gallons, so I must be closing in on six.

Hey, I'll do anything for juice and cookies.

Seriously... as I believe I have mentioned in discussing blood donations in the past, one of my close friends in college had hemophilia. He died of AIDS because of a blood tranfusion (before they had learned about the dangers). Until that time I had donated a few times (very few, years apart) but Bob's death made me realize just how very important donating blood can be. It truly is a matter of life and death.

And the number of people eligible to give keeps shrinking. There's a new restriction: you cannot have spent more than three months in England or Europe since 1980. I have spent more than three months outside of the United States since then (including Mexico and Australia and Canada) and had to stop and add up the actual number of days I've spent in England plus Norway and Austria and France... it comes to about ten weeks (all since '96, but I was glad they had a 1980 cutoff, 'cause I spent two weeks in England in '79)... so it would not take too many more trips to Europe before I could become ineligible to donate. What has that got to do with anything, you may ask... I think it's because of Mad Cow disease, etc. -- they are becoming hyper-cautious -- as of right now, only a few dozen people in the entire world have ever had that (if that many), almost all in the U.K. -- but because it could take twenty years to show up and after what happened with AIDS, they don't want to take a chance on blood transfusions given today causing the possibilty of Mad Cow disease in the year 2020. (Maybe the next step would involve having to bring your passport to blood center to prove the number of days spent in Europe don't exceed the maximum.)

If you can safely donate blood, please consider doing so.... (Drink plenty of fluids and don't lift weights before going to the blood center.)

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