Thursday, October 30, 2008

My good deed for the week

The Red Cross called last week and asked me to be a platelet donor. My whole blood had tested well for platelets and they were running really low. Platelets are the jaggedy cells in your blood that help with clotting. They can be harvested from healthy blood and given to cancer patients, but they have a terrible shelf-life out of the body : only 5 days. On Saturday I went and had my first session of platelet apheresis where whole blood is taken from one arm and run through this machine, which can separate the blood into it's component parts: plasma, red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets. The red and white blood cells and most of the plasma is then combined with an anti-coagulant and put back into your other arm. A donor can be on the machine for up to an hour and a half which will yield up to five units of platelets. Since it was my first time they only left me on the machine for 35 minutes to see how well i could tolerate the anti-coagulant and to get enough to calculate my platelet count. Next time they will know exactly how many units they can harvest from me. The process was far less gruesome than it sounds. They have you suck on some fruity Tums to offset calcium loss (that's what platelets are made of), cover you up with thick warm blankets in case you get cold (the blood going back into your body isn't 98 degrees anymore) and set you up with a personal DVD player (Russell and I spent some quality time in Ancient Rome). Holding both arms completely still was a bit tough, but it was harder not to nod off cause they make sure you are so comfortable. The worst part was the squeezing on my donating arm. Imagine this: grab a squishy stress ball (planet, heart, zebra, whatever you have at your desk), hold it in your left hand and squeeze, count to 2 and squeeze again, repeat for 35 minutes. My fingers fell asleep at one point and i had to figure out how to wiggle them enough to wake them up without moving my arm or dropping the ball and while still squeezing. Yikes. My receiving arm was a little sore and was rocking a small, hard hematoma (blood pool) which has turned into a lovely bruise, but overall it wasn't too bad. In fact, I am a bit proud that a girl who used to be hysterically afraid of needles laid quietly for 40 minutes with not one, but two needles in her. In the last few days i have related the story to several people who asked me if i got paid for my platelets. Apparently there are places that will buy your platelets! Who knew? The Red Cross Donation Center is definitely not one of those places; though i did get some cookies. I will go back, though probably not every two weeks, which is how often you can donate platelets. And for those of you who are wondering what they look like, here are my platelets (lower right corner)and some of my plasma (center) they kept to mix with them:


Megan said...

NIKI - good for you!! This is not just for the week - maybe the month!!

Kaaren said...

Gah, I say, Gah! And also ...*faint*