I’m a pint low

As part of our holiday “celebrations” at work, someone decided to organize a blood donor drive. This was a fantastic idea. I had never donated blood before, but I’ve been meaning to for years, so Matt’s event was the kick the ass I needed to get out and do it. About 10 of us went over to the blood donation clinic this afternoon, about half of those for the first time. I have had a couple of issues with dizziness in the past during examinations and such (including during my laser eye surgery), so I was a little nervous about doing it, but I’m glad I did. My father-in-law has donated many times, and is such a good “bleeder” that he’s only hooked up for 5 minutes before he’s filled the bag. I mentioned this event to my boss, and he said that he would have gone too, but just went a couple of weeks ago. He also said that he goes every 56 days, stating precisely how often you are allowed to give blood. Good on ya, Mark.

Because it was my first time, I had to fill out a whole bunch of forms (strangest question: “In your current or previous jobs, have you worked with monkeys or their bodily fluids?”), and then they hooked me up. It took about 15 minutes to do the donation (half a litre, or one pint), during which time I felt completely fine. When it was over, I was supposed to rest in the chair for a few minutes before going to have a snack. That’s when the problems started.

It started with a little dizziness, and I told one of the nurses. She immediately jumped over to me, put my chair back so that I was basically lying down, and started putting cold cloths on my forehead, neck, and arms, which she replaced every couple of minutes. Within a few minutes, my stomach was a little tingly, though I was never really nauseous, and my hands started to get tingly as well. Over the next few minutes, my stomach seemed to settle a little, but my hands got steadily worse (or maybe my stomach stayed the same but my hands got bad enough that I didn’t notice my stomach anymore). Pretty soon my hands were almost white and starting to curl up, and I couldn’t move them easily, so one of the nurses started to rub them. After what felt like several weeks of this (ok, maybe 10 minutes), I started to get some feeling back in my hands, and a few minutes after that, I felt much better.

During this unpleasant period of time, I thought to myself “OK, that’s it, I’m not doing this again”, and was somewhat surprised to hear myself think “Suck it up, princess. You’ll feel crappy for a while and then you’ll be fine. But with the blood you gave, up to three people might not die. Isn’t that worth 15 minutes of discomfort?” As crappy as I felt at that moment, I had to agree with myself.

As far as I know, I never came close to passing out — though one of the other guys I went with almost did. He had to lie down in the chair with the cold cloths as well, but about the time I felt better, he was OK too. One of the other guys got a little dizzy though not to the same extent, but I think everyone else was fine. The nurse said that my reaction was probably due to being dehydrated — since they took some of my blood away and I wasn’t sufficiently hydrated, my body started sucking blood (and therefore oxygen) out of my extremities until it realized that I was not in fact about to die, and calmed the hell down. I had a large tea on my way to work this morning (bad move — caffeine is dehydrating, which I already knew ), and then I had two 500mL bottles of water in the morning, so I figured that would be enough. Evidently not.

After I recovered and was sitting in the next room eating a donut, one of the nurses came over to me and said that it would probably be better if I didn’t donate again, for my own safety. I just said OK, but was a little disappointed. I went over to her a few minutes later and asked if that was based on the results of any blood tests they had done, or just based on my reaction. She said it was just based on the reaction, but that she had spoken to the other nurse that I dealt with, and they figured that it was my lack of hydration that was the real problem. She said that if I wanted to try again I could, but it would be better to wait a long time, like a year or two, before coming back. I intend to do just that, though next time I will be drinking water like it’s going out of style — and not just that day either, for at least a couple of days beforehand.


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