I am going to separate this post into two topics, a (hopefully) small blurb about my nails and the main portion about my experience today donating platelets. Both are sort of “uncommon” for me. So on with my small blurb:
I just willingly cut my nails after vowing to keep them growing until I find a job that necessitated the cutting of them. So, today I had my apheresis appointment and wanted to write about it and realized that if I wanted to get it done any time soon, I had better cut them down. I cut off slightly more than 1/4″, as seen in the upper right hand corner of the pic above, and they still stop at a little above the tops of my fingers. I read a tip about it being easier to file your nails with dark nail polish on them so I gave it a try and it was so EASY. I need to do more filing but it worked out great.
So, this appointment was uncommon for me because it was an awful experience. I don’t want to deter anyone from donating platelets, but I feel that I need to report the bad experiences along with the good ones. It’s quite a commitment to make and so, for me, that commitment overrides everything else–unless I feel that my care is being neglected during the process. THAT needs to be addressed and possibly reported for your own good and health.
So let me explain a little bit more about the process and what is happening. The goal is to draw the whole blood out of your body, it goes through a machine that separates the components being extracted, then the whole blood is returned into your body via, in my case, the same vein. Today the process was supposed to take 112 minutes but in reality turned into 125 minutes, so a little over Two Hours. Highly unusual for me and I’ll explain what happened. As I said, the blood gets returned to my body, through the same vein. They do have equipment out there that uses two veins, one from each arm. I’ve been told that the best method for my body is the one vein method.
Anyhoo… Today, I had some pain right from the get go. The needle felt uncomfortable, and the process was uncomfortable to painful. I was very concerned, but everything seemed okay. The machine monitors the pressure of the vein on the “draws” and the “returns” and an alarm will go off if the pressure gets too high OR too low. Nothing was happening so I hesitated. When asked, however, how I was doing and how I was feeling, I let them know that I was feeling pain, especially on the return and that had never happened before. The phlebotomist (I think those are the techs doing this work) came and looked at my setup and the machine and said that everything looked fine, but that she was going to monitor me. She asked if it was a burning or pinching sensation and I said, “no,” that it was more of a pressure PAIN. She said that usually any discomfort settles down after a bit and that I should let her know if it didn’t go away.
So a little bit later on, my alarm went off during the return. My techie came over and adjusted the machine to lessen the pressure. Well, to make this story a little shorter, she made more adjustments for the “returns” and also for the “draws.” Now, what this means is that she reset the speed at which my blood was being drawn out of me and the speed at which the blood was being returned into me. The higher the speed the greater the pressure on your vein. I hope I made that clear enough. So when they lower the speed, it will take longer for the whole process and that is how my time got up to two hours. Think about what would happen to your vein if this pressure was not alleviated. I didn’t ask, but I’m thinking it could explode? I don’t know for sure, but what I am sure about is that it would not be a good thing to happen. I had visions, though, of an exploded vein and that I would have to be rushed to the hospital and not even sure if I would make it there in time for them to save my life…. Yeah, you lay there for two hours and maintain the happy thoughts… Anyway, I did feel a bit of relief, but the pain lasted all through my time there. I did feel that I was in good hands, however, and didn’t call it quits. I managed a triple donation for my two hours and I’m happy about that. My techie was there with me the whole time, monitoring my vein and touching it to feel it for herself. I don’t blame her at all… and that is sort of a first for me. These things happen sometimes and what is crucial, though, is how it’s handled. One time at another place, a hospital, a phlebotomist screwed up BOTH my arms and I could not donate at all that day and went home with massive black and blues on both my arms.
At the end of it, I got a bandage that matched my blouse… woo hoo. But seriously, if you have a bad feeling about how your donation is going don’t be afraid to speak up and let them know. My techie told me that what probably happened was that the needle was resting on the side of my vein, causing discomfort. During the process, she adjusted it and, indeed, a lot of the pain dissipated and the alarm stopped going off for the rest of the session. My only complaint is that adjustment should have been done sooner. My arm is still out of sorts a good 10 hours or so later. Aaaah, now I know why. I have a good black and blue at the sight that is sore. My badge of honor for a couple of days, I guess; AND I got my cookies and juice.
Oh. A little something I should say and seriously only found out about a month ago. When you donate through the Blood Center of New Jersey, you earn credits with every donation and the amount goes according to the number of units donated, like single, double, triple units. Forget the amount, but I think it’s 100 credits per unit… something like that. Well, ya want to know how many credits I had accrued before I found out? 15,000 credits. Yeah, baby~! For you New Jersey people, if interested in donating anything, this is the link for the Blood Center of New Jersey. This year is their 66th year in service to the community.
I just want to end this saying that Platelet donation is not for everyone. It takes real commitment to return to these centers or a hospital time and time again, every two weeks or so to lay there for a minimum of roughly 60 to my new personal high of 2 hours. The people there always thank profusely for staying as long as I do in the chair. I am grateful that they are thanking me, but I don’t see it the same way. I am grateful for being able to do this for several reasons. I look at it as a way I can do something really important in a world that seems to be pushing me aside in so many ways…. but that is another long story in and of itself. Right now, I have the time. I meet the criteria of high iron, high platelet count and pass other little tests and each time the results are different and they can rejectyou if your donation if you don’t meet these standards. Each time is a little victory for me. I love being there. Yeah, I’m a bit off kilter. I tell everyone that I donate platelets because maybe they might need some or someone they know might find themselves in a dire situation where they need them fast. I can donate my platelets to anyone… well, I just need to still find out what the process is for that, but the employees are always so helpful that I push it aside knowing I can get the information at any time.
As always, and I don’t always say it, I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences. Gotta say that I write about various topics. Some are personal rants and some, like this, are informational. Out of everything, this blog has basically been kept alive by your response to my Apheresis posts. I was getting tons of comments on these posts, even old ones and for that I thank you.
- 100 Gallons of Blood Platelets Donated in Lifetime By 84-Year-Old Florida Man (medicaldaily.com)
- How Often Can You Donate Blood? (newsinmedicine.wordpress.com)
- Mother who lost teen son to rare disease on mission to increase platelet donations (readingeagle.com)
Apheresis (ay-fur-ee-sis): The process of removing a specific component from blood and returning the remaining components to the donor, in order to collect more of one particular part of the blood than could be separated from a unit of whole blood. Also called hemapheresis or pheresis*.
*Pheresis: Procedure in which the blood is filtered, separated, and a portion retained, with the remainder being returned to the individual.
There are various types of pheresis. In leukapheresis, the leukocytes (white blood cells) are removed. In plateletpheresis, the thrombocytes (blood platelets) are removed. And in plasmapheresis, the liquid part of the blood (the plasma) is removed.
From the Greek “aphairesis” meaning withdrawal.
If you want to learn more about the apheresis procedure and what it does, you can find out more at the Blood Center of NJ site. Please note there are two more links towards the bottom of the page for “learning more about the procedure” and “who needs your donation”. You will be surprised at what you didn’t know.
Did you know that Robert Wood Johnson Hospital, formerly known as “Rahway Hospital”, serves Seattle’s Best coffee? Tastes so good, especially since I broke my coffee pot a few days ago and have been boiling my coffee, you know, like in the good old days. It wasn’t bad, but lots of grinds guaranteed in every cup.
I’ve been thinking about how blessed I am, being able to donate platelets. It comforts me to know that this old, diseased body can still be good for something in it’s brokenness. Well, more than that. I’m saving a life with every donation and that’s good to think about. This appointment also got me out of the house today, and let me tell you, the sun is HOT out there. What a beautiful day!
I thought I’d take some time to talk a little bit about my experiences that deviated from the norm during these past few years. Now, when you undergo the apheresis procedure, you can’t just lay there and fall asleep, though I’ve been seriously tempted. When I slide into that reclining position, my body relaxes to the point of slipping into slumber. Well, I did just that on one such occasion and all hell broke loose. You have an active role during this procedure and you definitely need to pay attention. There are two parts to this:
- Withdrawal of your blood
- Separation of components needed
- Returning the blood to your body
The nurse inserts the same kind of needle like if you were giving whole blood and gives you a spongeball. When the machine starts to withdraw blood,you need to squeeze that ball the whole time it’s on the “withdraw”. You can even watch a window on the machine as your blood is gathered and running through the machine. Next, the machine signals the “return”, when your blood is returned to your body through the same port that the blood came out of. During this time, you can relax your hand because that squeezing creates a pressure, the same kind when nurses take your blood pressure and you need to squeeze your hand. One the withdraw, it makes it easier for the blood to leave your body; but when your blood is returning, the squeezing makes it harder for it to come back and it’s sort of running against the current, so to speak. Well, when I fell asleep, for however briefly, my pressure was too low and that screwed up the works. Alarms went off and the technician had to adjust the machine to accommodate the change in pressure and I had to pump that ball fast and furious to get those alarms to stop. In the end, I was okay, but falling asleep is not really a good thing to do when you’re doing this. I’ve learned my lesson. One thing I’ve got to say is that I was pretty disappointed to learn that I can’t knit or crochet while doing the apheresis thang.
Every time I do this, it’s different. Usually I am able to do a triple donation, but sometimes it’s a double. This just means that according to your body, you may be able to donate either one, two, or three units of donations, s-a-f-e-l-y. That is, at no risk to you or the platelet level needed in your body to stay healthy.
Oh boy, it’s almost time for me to get in there. I’ll report more later or tomorrow.
Just a quick note to say that I’ve been successfully donating double and triple units of platelets. Getting ready for an appointment today, as well; and hope to write about it when I get home while still fresh in my mind.
I also want to thank those who are steady commentators on my platelet posts. Several of them in 2006 and 2007, and I am so grateful for your interest. I do notice that I seriously need to tag my posts and will do at least that when I get home, and hopefully I’ll feel up to it. No reason not to, but sometimes donating platelets takes more out of you than you would think. Nothing that a nap couldn’t help.
Anyway, I’ve got a few errands to run today beforehand, so I’ll be cutting this short.
Have a great day!