Saturday, December 17, 2011

What I wore: plateletpheresis

I’m taking my cue from The Dainty Squid and other bloggers who post pictures of the cute outfits they put together. In my case, I’m showcasing a complete lack of style.

I try to donate platelets every couple of weeks, and I really have to dress for the occasion -- in survival gear that still leaves me free to bare my left arm. The platelet apheresis machines are finicky, and if the vein pressure is too low they alarm... and alarm... and alarm, turning a 90-minute donation into an all day affair. If you’re cold, it can alarm. If deyhdrated, alarm.

The first try at platelets, it seemed it would never end. Alarm. Alarm. Alarm. They moved the needle (Ouch!). Alarm. Another needle adjustment (Ouch!). Alarm. Three or four needle adjustments later (Ouch! Ouch! Ouch! Ouch!) they let me give up on the second unit.

Now, I dress for the Klondike, demand hot packs and blankets, and slam so much water I feel faintly nauseous. The outfit for today: turtleneck thermal top, longjohns under flannel-lined Carhartts, Tour de Prairie (37 miles!) t-shirt, sleeveless zip hoodie from a spaving expedition to Kohl’s, and thrifted black Converse high-tops. Plus, one of those groovy earlflap Columbia wool hats and a polarfleece scarf. They buried me under 3 giant blankets and gave me a baby bottle of hot water to squeeze.

Probably looks silly to the whole blood donors who’ve never tried to appease the angry gods of the apheresis machine, but it works. At the end, I get a black bandage to match the t-shirt and tennies, and instructions not to take it off for 4 hours.

The blood bank keeps a list at their front desk of patients served recently. I look for those that might have used what came out of my arm. This week, there were a baby and a 64-year-old man who both needed platelets, and could have taken A-negative. Maybe they were mine, or maybe they’ll go to the next baby or grandfather in the hospital. It’s an ego trip.

I don’t have other volunteer opportunities where I can take 3 hours out of my weekend and possibly save someone’s life. I don’t have the time, resources or inclination to go dig wells in Haiti. I don’t have any particular skills that involve lifesaving. As an introvert with marginal social skills, I’m glad of something to do that doesn’t require me to actually interact with people, other than the phlebotomists.

I’ve been through thyroid cancer, I’m used to getting needles in the arm. I’ve got a nice, big vein down the center of the left one. I have plenty of platelets. I bleed easily, reseal quickly and have the patience to sit still if I can only have a book in my hands. I guess every girl has to have a talent.


  1. Good for you, for donating! I wish I could, but I have such a strong vasovagal response that I pass out almost the instant they insert the needle. (Annoying, but I can't seem to talk my body out of it.) I've tried convincing the nurses to just take what they need and wake me when it's over, but they seem to want you conscious. ;-)

  2. Conscious makes it easier to keep squeezing the thingamabobby from time to time. ;-)

    I'm just glad I'm able to do it. I know not everyone can, and it's really not that big a deal for me to donate.

  3. Greetings, fellow thyroid cancer survivor! I, too, get a big kick out of donating blood; need to make it a more regular habit... Makes me feel as though I'm giving back a bit...

  4. Thanks, Val! Always good to connect with another thyca survivor. Looking forward to perusing your blog. :)