Lately I’ve not been as disciplined in my donations, for various reasons I guess. Perhaps it’s having a son now that complicates my schedule, but it’s more than that. Things just seem to come up. And recently I keep getting sick, and they want you healthy. Also, after I donate my exercise ability drops for almost a week and I really feel it when I go to the gym. But it seems that ever since I started donating platelets last year my eagerness to donate has dropped a little. You can read about the different types of blood donations here, and more specifically about blood platelet donations here.
Platelet donation takes a lot longer than the fifteen minutes of a whole blood donation. The way platelets are taken is that blood is drawn in the usual way but it is sent through a centrifuge which spins the platelets out, and then the blood is returned back into your arm through the same line. The same blood line (is it called intravenous line?) goes through a cycle of draw and return, and the process takes about an hour per unit of donation. You can donate up to two units, which not including the mini exam and the prep stage, takes two hours to complete. If you read the website on the platelet, you’ll find that losing those platelets feels funny. It makes your face tingly, especially the lips, and your whole body feels cold. Plus it hurts. That darn needle in the arm for that long starts to pinch and eventually ache.
They seem to like my blood, those vampires…lol. I get calls from the New York Blood Center as soon as I’m eligible to give again. I’m a member of “The Gallon Club.” I’ve probably given a few gallons actually. They call and we schedule, and if it’s convenient I keep my appointment, and, if I don’t, they call again and reschedule. Lately they’ve been more persistent in asking for platelets. I’ve given a few times, but last time I really didn’t have the time and said I couldn’t do it and just gave whole blood. This time I scheduled for the day before Easter since I figured I should be available that day. And then it struck me that giving blood over the Triduum weekend would make it a sort of mini imitation of Christ’s sacrifice: I’d give my blood to save a life.
When I got there this morning, and after I passed the mini exam, the examining nurse said they were really short on my blood type, would I mind if I gave one unit of platelets and one unit of whole blood. I said I didn’t know you could do that, but if that was what was needed, sure. And so he hooked me up. The machine projected a completion time for both extractions of 76 minutes. I was ready with my Kindle, made myself comfortable under the conditions, and set myself to re-read Edgar Allen Poe’s “William Wilson.” The nurse came back a few minutes into the extraction with a print out of a mini blood analysis and said in his East Indian accent, “Your blood is VERY good,” whatever that meant.
At the forty-five minute mark (the centrifuge indicates the progress) I had just completed the story, and actually one handed typed in a little note as to why I enjoyed it and its concluding flaw (all of Poe’s stories seem to have a concluding flaw to me) but it’s then I noticed my lips were beyond just tingling, they were almost numb. My face was also a bit numb, but the numbness seemed to go into my brain. And my arm was really hurting now, not so much from the needle prick—he had inserted it really smoothly, flawlessly—but from being locked into an awkward position for good deal of time. The nurse had never loosened the blood pressure cuff and my arm was more elevated than I ever remember at a blood donation, and it was also hanging over, so that it felt as if my arm were being stretched. The pain was in my bicep mostly, and I didn’t dare shift the arm very much with the needle point inside. A slight shift did help, but then the arm went back into the same position and exerted the same pain. The nurse responsible for me had disappeared (lunch break I think) and the other nurse looking over the floor seemed to be busy.
As I finished that short story and went on to another Poe, my concentration dropped. My brain was getting fuzzy. The pain was also getting more to bear. It occurred to me at that point that this was in part a little suffering in the manner of Christ on the cross. My arm was pinned and being stretched. This was like a half crucifixion. However, don’t let me take the analogy too far. Though this hurt, this was nowhere near a crucifixion. I tried to wonder what a real crucifixion must have felt like. I tried to project how two arms pinned and stretched in this manner for three hours must have felt. Add to it that Christ was beaten and scourged before hand, forced to carry a cross up a hill, and probably didn’t have any food in him since the night before. Well, I never called the nurse over to relieve the pain. This wasn’t suffering.
When I was finished, it felt so good to get my arm back. I almost pulled it away before the nurse took the needle out. He gasped and caught my arm before I moved too far. When I got up I felt really light headed. I had never felt like this before after giving blood. I realized that Friday—Good Friday—I had mostly fasted, and even this morning I had only a small breakfast. I normally would have a bit more if I were donating blood. As I moved I felt very awkward on my feet and told the nursing crew I was light headed. They had me quickly sit down and rest, and the nurse went over and got me a bottle of juice. My head was numb. I don’t know how long I rested, ten, possibly fifteen minutes, and then I got up and went to snack table to have some coffee and cookies. I took another bottle of juice and cautiously, still feeling peculiar, went out.
"I turn me and lean against the most Holy Cross of Christ Crucified, and there I will fasten me." –St. Catherine of Siena.
Have a most blessed Easter, or as I prefer to call it it, Resurrection Day.