Mikes Secret Weapon for Blood Donations
By Mike Tierney
Normally, I brim with optimism on my treks to donate blood. Other than a couple of instances when uncooperative veins thwarted those missions, my every-two-months appointments with the Red Cross have paid off. I’ve departed the donor sites down a pint almost without fail.
On Presidents Day, however, I arrived with a sense of despair. The two previous tries ended before they began with the standard test to measure hemoglobin in the blood, and I could not help but feel a sense of dread.
As a routine, the attendant draws a drop from the donor’s finger and determines the amount of hemoglobin, which contains iron and transmits oxygen throughout one’s body. The screening is intended to protect the patrons because their hemoglobin levels fall when a pint is removed. If they start out with low hemoglobin, a decrease during the process is considered unhealthy.
For years, I had landed above the threshold for males of 13.0 g/dL. (The g/dL, or grams per deciliter, is a measure of density). For females, the minimum is 12.5.
For reasons unclear, I dipped below the cut-off on the past pair of visits. What was especially frustrating is that the two tests conducted at each appointment resulted in wildly varying figures. At the last one, I registered 12.1 with the initial drop of blood, then an oh-so-close 12.9 on a re-test using another drop.
So here I was, back again, hoping that I could make the smallest of dents in the critical blood shortage that is impacting the nation. And preparing myself to feel guilty if I couldn’t.
I alerted my attendant to the recent issues. She noted that readings can be all over the map, saying even drops pulled within seconds from separate fingers can result in considerable variance.
Imagine my delight when I popped a 14.1 on the first test. I nearly emitted a woo-hoo until realizing that donors doing their thing on the fold-out beds might not appreciate any disturbance.
The attendant asked if I’d taken steps to bump up the count.
“Not really, except for magnesium vitamins,” I said.
“That can make a difference,” she observed.
For donors, the elaborate screening procedure that includes a lengthy questionnaire can seem annoying. And during the current blood scarcity, it made me wonder why some restrictions could not be amended or even suspended so more recipients in need could be accommodated.
But guaranteeing the safety of all parties is the Red Cross’ priority. There is no willingness to compromise the safeguards in place.
Once cleared by the attendant, I confidently assumed it would be clear sailing. No such luck.
Soon after another attendant tapped into my vein, I inquired how the blood flow was going.
“The flow is pretty low,” he said ominously, then asked if he could adjust the needle in my arm to provide a better flow.
If this did not work, I would strike out again.
Gratefully, it did. Some shifting around was necessary before the blood started discharging at an acceptable rate. Within minutes, the task was complete.
Donors in my area this month are promised an Amazon gift card. What I will spend it on is uncertain, but one possibility came to mind as I hurried on my walk home to schedule another donation.