One of my earliest memories that I have is of going with my dad to the City of Hope, a cancer hospital, when he would donate blood. They'd let me sit on the bed with him while he donated, and then at the end they would wrap a colorful elastic bandage on my arm, and we ate Oreos and drank juice together.
Dad started donating blood in high school because they were offering free food to donors. And he's donated ever since then. Last year (?) the City of Hope honored my dad and had him speak at something because he's donated so much.
I'm not as regular as he is, but I've donated blood a bunch of times since I turned 17. One time they asked my mom and sisters and I if we would like to try donating platelets, and we decided to do it. Platelets are like...white blood cells. They need them for cancer patients because their white blood cells count has to be at a certain level before they can do more chemo. You can donate them once every two weeks, and it takes about 2 hours of being hooked up to a machine. They give you headphones and your own little tv, though, so it isn't bad. My sisters and mom and I went some Saturdays before my mission. Our family is just all about sharing bodily fluids like that. It seems like a nice thing to do.
When I moved up here, I wanted to keep donating platelets to help cancer patients. Apparently, though, you can only donate them in Salt Lake. Which is too far for me. Plasma seemed like a slightly less exciting substitution. They never paid us at the cancer hospital, so we were just doing a nice thing. Being paid for my plasma seems so...prostitutional. But my mom said that it was just like they were paying me for my time. And they make money on the stuff anyway. So I decided to try it.
(Oh, gosh. )
So yesterday, I decided that I would go donate in between jobs.
It was like completing an obstacle course. I'm so serious. I'm not used to so much red tape!
I went, and they sent me to Booth #1 to answer a dozen-ish yes/no questions. Someone would be right with me. So I filled out the form, and I sat. And waited. And started reading The Daily Universe that I had with me. And finished reading it. And I realized it had been nearly half an hour. Hm. And then a guy opened the door from the normal-people side. He was surprised and embarrassed to find me in there. He quickly closed the door. And then one of the girls on the plasma-center side opened the door, and she was surprised and embarrassed to find me in there too. They'd forgotten about me! Someone would be right with me, they said.
And they were. A girl came and asked me the questions I'd already answered. They were questions like "In the last 12 months, have you ever touched your elbow, or looked at someone who had touched their elbow in the last 12 months, to the best of your knowledge?" (okay, not really) and "Have you ever taken medication." (Um. Yes?)
They got really concerned about me having donated platelets within the past 4 months, and then decided that 2 months was sufficient. So I passed my pre-screening.
And then I had to pass my vein-check. (Vein check?!) A girl tied a rubber strip around my arm and looked for my vein. "Make a fist," she said. Um. Okay. I explained that my right arm has a good vein, and that my left arm's is hard to find. They always use my right arm. She wanted to look anyway, though, so she checked my left arm, too. And then she needed a second opinion.
So she called in a good-looking guy to reevaluate my veins. He tied the rubber tighter. "This is going to sound weird," he said, "but grab my thumb." People! Invest in squeezing balls! I cooperated, and he decided that I would be okay. "I'm going to pass you off today. But you need to do exercises so that you can strengthen your veins. " Whaaaat....Exercises? To strengthen my veins? Who does vein exercises? I don't know. It just kind of seems like doing exercises to strengthen my spleen. Or the bridge of my nose. Who does that? "My wife did them and she was able to donate within a week," he added.
So I was ready to donate.
They pulled out the appointment book, to set an appointment. The hour and a half or whatever that I'd spent there was not part of my 2-3 hour "first" appointment. Before I could donate, I needed to do a bunch of paperwork and have a medical exam. When did I want to come in?
So I didn't donate. Instead, I set an appointment for today. I went and bought a stress-ball from Sports Authority, and started my special exercises. And I laughed on the inside about how I could blog about being forgotten and having to squeeze a guy's thumbs.
Boy, I had no idea what I was in for.
Today I showed up for my appointment and did more paperwork. In ten minutes they would call me for my interview, so I worked on a jigsaw puzzle, content to be nearly finished. I still wasn't, though!
I went for the interview, and then I had to pee in a cup.
Then I had to go to the front and formally sign in. ("You walk up here, stand on the scale, say your full name and the last four digits of your Social Security Number.") Then you move over, and they prick your finger to check your hematocrit (sp?). Then you move over and stick both hands under a black light. Nothing lit up, so they knew that I didn't donate somewhere else, and invisibly-inked my right pinkie finger. So that everyone would know that they were my plasma center.
And then I waited some more. For a physical! I seriously had to change into a hospital gown and have my abdomen poked at, etc.
And then I had to have my picture taken.
All to donate!
So I was finally ready, and they sent me back to the donation room. I got set up, and everything was going fine. Everyone was impressed that I had my own squeeze ball instead of squeezing a piece of pipe like they were doing. And by everyone, I mean a bunch of guys. There wasn't one other girl in the whole room!
Until partway through, I started to tingle. My fingers did, actually. And the machine returned my blood, and I felt fine again. And then it took more blood out again, and my fingers tingled again. And then my hand cramped and I couldn't squeeze my ball-thing anymore. And my arm started tingling and cramping. And then my other arm did. I told them, and they called the doctor. She stopped the machine and returned my blood slowly. I started blacking out, and couldn't hear things. I strained to keep my eyes open. They brought me a wet washcloth for my forehead and a trash can, since I told them that I was about to throw up. I did. A few times. And as my blood returned, I started feeling better.
So they started the machine again. And, whaddoyaknowit, it happened again. Faster, though. I seriously thought I was going to pass out. Instead, I just threw up some more. They decided that I was done.
I donated probably, oh, 3/4 of what they wanted.
It was a funny experience, though. I still smiled a lot, and was friendly, and unconcerned, even though everyone else was worried. ("Why did that happen?" a nurse asked, and I explained how the calcium works. City of Hope handed out calcium chews when you arrived, and then during donation if you started to tingle. And then the tingling went away.)
And when I finshed, my blood pressure stayed low, so they made me stay in bed for almost an hour, checking my blood pressure and pulse every 10 or 15 minutes.
I guess stuff like that only happens once every 6 months or so. Lucky me.