I gave a double unit of platelets and a pint of whole blood this morning, which is I think the most they can take out of the human body in one sitting before it starts to shrivel noticeably and take on a ghostly white tinge.
Truth be told, I'm fine. I just couldn't resist such a...*ahem*...witty opening line. But I was in a chair with a needle stuck in me for 96 minutes this morning.
About four years ago, the Blood Center of Wisconsin came around for one its biannual blood drives in my village, and I thought it might make for an interesting column if I donated my first pint.
I'm not squeamish around needles or the sight of blood (usually), and everything went off without a hitch. I dropped off a pint, got some free cookies and juice (whoo hoo!) for my troubles, and went home and wrote the column.
Thing is...once you give them your personal information and fill out all their paperwork, you are officially entered into Their System.
So about eight weeks after my first donation, when I was eligible again, my phone rang one night, and the nice lady on the other end explained to me that there was a critical need for my blood type in my area, and would I be able to stop by the Blood Center's Manitowoc site sometime soon and donate another pint?
"A critical need?" I thought. Uh-oh. That sounded serious. And I'd proven the time before that I was a textbook example of a swell blood donor. So I made an appointment for a Saturday morning, and drained another pint.
This time they asked me before I left if I'd like to make another appointment.
I had just become a "regular."
After a couple more whole blood donations, I was asked if I'd consider giving platelets. This process takes longer than a whole blood donation...up to an hour and a half...and the blood is drawn and run through an apheresis machine, where the cells are separated and collected, and then the blood is returned.
In every minute on the machine, 50 seconds of that minute are spent drawing blood and collecting what it needs, and 10 seconds are spent shooting the blood back into the donor.
Basically...I go and sit in a chair, a needle stuck in my arm, and read a book. Not too difficult. It's like being at the library. Except for the women in the white coats. And, um...the needle. And the bleeding.
Several extra minutes on the machine can usually lead to a "split," or a double unit of platelets. And the new platelet machines at the Manitowoc site allow for donation of a unit of whole blood at the end of the platelet session, if the donor wishes.
So I kinda gave the full menu this morning. I try to go and donate something once a month...or as my schedule allows, because the Manitowoc site is only open two Saturdays a month. But last October I went in to give a unit of whole blood, and was asked if I had a little extra time to give a double unit of red cells, which involved being hooked up to the machine for about 40 minutes.
A donation of a double unit of red cells, though, takes you out of commission on their eligible donor's list for sixteen weeks!
Hey, I'll give 'em whatever they want, or what they need most...but that's a longgg time between donations.
I think I'll stick to platelets on a semi-regular schedule, instead. And the 90 minutes it provides for turning pages in a book.
Not to mention the free juice and cookies!
"He that will not give some portion
of his ease, his blood, his wealth,
for others' good, is a poor, frozen churl."