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It’s worth having ice water running through your veins

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POSTED December 13, 2009 1:46 a.m.
I now know where the phrase “ice water running through your veins” comes from.

Nora had warned me that at the end of the process of donating that when my blood was returned minus the platelets that it would lower my body temperature. She wasn’t kidding. People who know me know I have no problem with cold. The temperature in my arm dropped so suddenly that I actually started laughing.

Saturday was the first time I’ve ever donated platelets. I got a call from Delta Blood Bank four days earlier. I was told they had tested my blood after a recent donation and that my platelet count was high enough to qualify as a donor. It would take about two hours to donate.

Then came the deal closer. There was a shortage of platelets that were used to help people fight some types of cancer such as leukemia as well as help those undergoing chemotherapy, bone marrow transplants, and preemie babies. My blood type was virtually universal when it comes to having useable platelets.

All I had to do was show up at the Modesto Delta Blood Bank at 2 p.m. Saturday and I was off to the races.

Nora is the phlebotomist who I was lucky enough to have for my maiden voyage in being hooked up to a machine to have platelets separated from my blood. I admit I was a little nervous. My resting heart rate when they went through the pre-donation drill was 72.

I had braced myself, though, for spending two hours donating although I wasn’t quite sure what that meant.

Even though my veins were fine, Nora thought it was best to use both arms the first time. As she started prepping my arms, I noticed that she was wrapping gauze around it and the donation chair arm so they wouldn’t move. They don’t do that during a normal blood donation.

Then out of the blue she asked me the question: “Did you go to the bathroom?”

Actually, I had given that some thought before walking through the door. Right before she started securing my arms she had me read the consent form that noted I could end up needing to go 2.5 hours to give the platelets.

I didn’t really have to go but I figured I’d better as it was repeatedly emphasized if the donation process had to be stopped for whatever reason such as Mother Nature calling it would be aborted. I wasn’t about to spend a couple hours strapped into a chair and have it for naught because I had to go to the bathroom.

The actual process was fairly mundane but pleasant. I owe that to Nora’s perfect sense of humor.

She had warned me that I might get tingling sensations – especially in an arm and the lips – and I could cramp. That was because the process depleted the calcium in the blood.

Nora told me to let her know and she’d give me some Tums. I’m not a fan of any type of medication no matter how innocuous.

About 70 minutes into it, my arm did indeed start tingling as well as my lips. She asked if I wanted Tums and I relented saying that it was cool if it made her feel better. (Actually, at that point I was confident it would make me feel better given she had gotten down the sensation to a “T” and had mentioned what it could lead to some serious problems if ignored.)

So on Saturday I not only had my first bunch of Tums but I had than tossed into my mouth while strapped down to a chair.

The most amazing thing about it is that I essentially spent 117 minutes – the time the donation process ended up taking - without moving. And to tell you how good Nora was in keeping my mind at ease with her professionalism and personality my heart rate after it was all over was 52.

As I was sitting there I reflected a bit on how lucky I was. I have good health. Apparently my white cell count is at a point that I can fight off viruses fairly well and my platelets are high enough I don’t bleed excessively when I get a cut.

At the same time I was thinking that I figured there must be hundreds – if not thousands – of people out there with leukemia, facing a bone marrow transplant or going through chemotherapy. I looked over at a gentleman to my far left who was a repeat donor (a qualified donor can give every two weeks unlike whole blood that takes eight weeks between donations). He was passing his time watching a laptop DVD. If it wasn’t for guys like him, a lot of people out there – including preemies – wouldn’t have a fighting chance.

That sealed it for me. I can’t think of a better way to spend two to three hours every other Saturday afternoon.

I’ll be back.
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