Donating Plasma

With my slightly misshapen heart it’s not a good idea for me to reduce my red blood cell count by donating blood.

Fortunately, I can still donate a different way.

There are three different parts of your blood that are separated out after you donate, red blood cells that carry oxygen, platelets that clot injuries, and plasma which is the actual liquid part of your blood.

Good news for me, most anyone can donate each of these blood components individually!

Red blood cell donations are out for me. That’s why I’m staying away from whole blood donations in the first place.

I have enough platelets for myself but when the clinic tested my levels they said I don’t have enough to donate to other people.

That leaves plasma.

When I went to the clinic for a plasma donation all the preliminaries were the same, heart rate, blood pressure, hemoglobin levels, and check the arms for signs of intravenous drug use. One additional test was checking my body weight to see how much plasma they wanted to draw out.

I laid down at the donation cradles like I would for a whole blood donation, but instead of getting hooked up to a little bag I got hooked up to a dishwasher sized machine.

It also makes a sound like, "WHHHRRRRRRR."
It also makes a sound like, “WHHHRRRRRRR.”

The machine draws blood out of a donor, separates out whatever blood component they are donating, and then puts the rest of their blood back in.

The separation is done using a centrifuge contained in the body of the machine. The centrifuge spins really fast once the donor’s blood is inside of it. The denser blood components, red blood cells and platelets, go to the outside of the centrifuge while the plasma stays on the inside. The machine puts the plasma into collection bags and returns the leftover parts to the donor.

Each “spin” takes one minute and collects about 20ml of plasma. I was set to donate 800ml so the actual donation took about 40 minutes compared to about 8 minutes for a whole blood donation.

I read my book for a little bit while donating but then the little lap DVD players they had enticed me.

Nevermind that it was the same book that motivated me to start this blog.
Nevermind that it was the same book that motivated me to start this blog.

They had a huge selection of DVDs (~400). I requested Iron Man 2 and watched the first couple minutes of it as my donation finished.

The wind-down process of a plasma donation was exactly the same as a whole blood donation. Held my arm over my head for a minute, got bandaged up, ate some snacks, drank some water, and left. I also made an appointment for donating again in a month. Gotta finish that Iron Man movie even if it takes 4 more donations!

The aftereffects of the donation were my biggest concern. I didn’t want to get heart palpitations for weeks afterwards because of reduced red blood cell counts.

Fortunately, donating just the plasma of my blood worked out fine. I had some flutteries and felt light-headed for 24 hours afterwards, but that was all. No persistent effects, so no worries! I plan to continue donating plasma.

And of course I am obligated to encourage you to donate as well. It’s free! It’s easy! It comes with hundreds of free movies and cookies! What more could you ask for?

-GoCorral

Giving Blood

Blood Bandage and Sticker
The sticker says, “My reason for donating is ‘My sister’s B-Day.'”

 

As I was coming home from work yesterday I passed by a sign on campus that announced a blood drive.

I’ve always wanted to donate, but a few things worried me about it.

I take antihistamines for my allergies, so I’m constantly getting a little sick. You can’t donate within three days of being sick.

I used to be freaked out by my blood being inside another person’s body, but the Lego arguement helped me get over that problem. It’s not really my blood once its outside of my body. It’s just blood. And I might need blood someday when I’m in a hospital, so I should give some now!

It’s also a little difficult to schedule when you donate blood because they’re open at the same time I’m working or at school.

So as I was biking past this sign for the blood drive I was thinking about my sister as yesterday would’ve been her 27th birthday. I had some strange compulsion to get her a present. The sign and the present idea lined up and I decided giving blood would be my present to her.

The process was fairly smooth, mostly just a lot of waiting.

I got a card to fill out with my address, name, and phone number. I talked to some people about having them sponsor my donaion or something so they could get a grant for supplis at their student-run clinic in Sacramento.

I then sat in a line or people waiting to go into the five buses lined up along the UC Davis quad.

Eventually one of the buses called me and the exchange student next to me up. I then sat in the bus while they entered my info into a computer and confirmed that everything was right.

After that I went into a tiny little closet (slightly bigger, but it felt like a closet) at the back of the bus to answer questions about my sexual, travel, and penal history. Basically anything that puts you at risk for HIV.

A guy came into the closet to test the hemoglobin levels of my blood and my bsic vitals to make sure I could donate. Everything looked good and he sent me into the main part of the bus.

The bus had several reclining chairs set up all along it. The perfect ergonomic position for holding your arm out and letting people drain blood from it.

One of the two women working in that section explained everything to me, set up the IV, and started taking the blood out. The actual process of being drained took about six minutes.

While the IV is in I didn’t look at it. I find that needles only creep me out if I look at them.

They gave me a little squeeze ball to roll in my arm. Keeping my hand moving kept the blood flowing into the IV.

At the end they bandaged up my arm and sent me to the front of the bus to get cookies, water, and Gatorade. I got the sticker in the picture above as well.

It was pretty fun for a first time. I’m planning on going again in June. I’m sure my sister would’ve liked her present!

-GoCorral

Numb Finger

I'll just watch the clock while the doctor looks at my Xrays in the other room.
I’ll just watch the clock while the doctor looks at my Xrays in the other room.

A day or two before I left for my vacation on Bois Blanc Island I woke up with my left pointer finger feeling numb.

I’ve had numbness like this on other parts of my body in the past, but its always gone away in a day or two.

This time the numbness has stayed around for around a month.

I used WebMD to try and figure out what was going on and there was some pretty scary things on there. Fortunately, I didn’t match all the symptoms of any of the more serious conditions.

A self-diagnosis wasn’t enough for me so I made an appointment at the local clinic.

My wife had her eye on a particular doctor at the clinic to be her own primary care physician. I tried to get an appointment with that doctor so I could preview her for my wife, but she was on maternity leave until November.

Instead I got an appointment with a different, but equally competent male doctor.

I’ve never had a male doctor for my regular visits. Neither has my wife. Nothing wrong with the doctor I saw today, but I’ve always been more comfortable with women. I think we’ll go to the female doctor on maternity leave for any future problems.

So! The numbness in my finger! I’d feared something horrible like peripheral neuropathy or Guillain-Barre Syndrome.

Instead the doctor said it was something much more mundane.

It was likely just physical trauma to my radial nerve which takes sensory information from my hand to my brain.

The damage would normally repair quickly, but its possible I’ve been aggravating the injury by sleeping on my hands.

So the injury might fix itself if I stop sleeping on my hands.

However it might be too late for the injury to fix itself within my hands.

In that case the nerve would need to regrow from my shoulder all the way down to my hand.

When nerves are regrown from the shoulder they extend about one centimeter each week.

My arm is roughly a meter long (I haven’t measured exactly), so if the nerve regrows from my shoulder then I won’t have feeling in my finger again for another two years or so.

So lets hope my finger gets better soon if I stop sleeping on it!

-Mister Ed