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Preparing Well For Platelet Donation


So, yesterday I donated platelets at Robert Wood Johnson Hospital, formerly known as Rahway Hospital in Rahway, NJ.  Personally, I will never accept it as RWJ.  I really don’t like it when they rename streets, buildings, schools, and yes, hospitals.  So much of the history is lost when they do that and it upsets my stomach.  I had stopped going to the hospital in Rahway because I didn’t like the treatment I got there past few times, and yes, maybe I was moody those days; but compounded by the dreary atmosphere, antiquated equipment and the overall dirty, dim look and feel of the room, I had decided to change my donation place to another location.  Humph.  A lot of good that name-changing thing did for the Blood Donor Room.

Anyway, Marty at the Blood Center of New Jersey called last week and asked if I could do it and though I hesitated, I agreed to donate there yesterday.  I hadn’t donated since September and I was due.  In October I suffered some nerve damage from getting the flu shot and stopped my donations because they come from the same arm I get pain in.  It’s not just laying there during donations.  You need to keep track of the “draws” and “returns”, and during the draws, you need to squeeze a stress ball to keep the pressure up.  Otherwise what will happen is that the alarm will go off and there will be a problem.  An important problem.  Squeezing the ball keeps the blood flowing and prevents it from slowing down too much or stop altogether… NOT good.

Platelet Fact:  Cancer, transplant, trauma, and open-heart surgery patients require platelet transfusions to control their bleeding.

I don’t like to say no to Marty.  He’s always been a nice guy to talk to and one time sent me a little platelet guy.

Platelet Guy

Though I’ve always been committed to donating platelets, I’ve not always had a pleasant experience.  It took me a few times in the beginning to get used to it; and one very specific time that I got sick from it.  Not sick, sick; but I felt horrible.  THE  most important thing you can do for yourself is to drink plenty of water before and after your donation.  Keep hydrated–very important.  The next, if not more important thing to do to prevent getting sick is to eat very well before your donation.  What I mean by that is that you need to build up your iron and what I do is eat generously, but not over eat, a nice steak, go easy on fats and dairy.  I usually do a london broil a couple of days before donation, night before, etc.  On the day of donation, you simply MUST eat well.  By that I mean you must eat like a human, and not a rabbit.  Eat healthy, but EAT.  Yesterday for breakfast I actually ate a beef filling I had made out of chopped beef, onions, vegetables and tomatos and water.  It was left over from a sort of beef pot pie…. individuals ones encased in pie dough.  Then two hours later I ate salad, a beef empanada, rice and water.  THEN, about a half hour before my donation, I ate a ham and cheese sandwich on a bagel with water.  My stomach did not get upset at all.  This last meal was eaten in the hospital cafeteria, which is probably the only redeeming value of donating at this hospital.  A place to relax in.  Oh, another good point.  I always go to my donations early.  Early enough so that I can relax sufficiently so that my temperature has a chance to settle down.  Commuting to my donations always elevates my temp. and I’ve been rejected just because of that in the past.  Oh, and don’t drink hot beverages right before donating as that will elevate your temp, as well.  Something I never thought about.  Something I never thought about, but is important is to take the time to sit and eat those cookies and sweets they offer you after donation.

Notice for Diabetics:

This is the one time you may indulge in sugary things.  Just here at your donation place.  You sugar levels will be lower and simply put, you need this.  This does not mean that you can eat cookies for the rest of the day, just now, here after your donation.  Just one, maybe two servings… but that’s it.  I am diabetic and I do not drink the juices, but I do have one oatmeal cookie and cream sandwich and I take a pack of pretzels and water with me for the ride home.  Of course, everyone is different.  These are the things that I’ve noticed at work for ME.

Okay, so in review:

  • Eat meat, preferably a good steak a day or so before platelet donation.
  • Eat generously day of your platelet donation.
  • Keep well hydrated all the time, but most important in the days before donation and after.
  • Try to eat something right before your donation.
  • RELAX.  Get relaxed and stay relaxed.
  • Avoid hot beverages right before your donation.
  • Take advantage of the cookies!  Take a minute or two for guilt-free treats.

This morning I slept like a rock and rolled out of bed on the late side, 8:00am.  Usually, I wake up with the normal ruckus of the morning.  Not so today, but that’s a-okay.

My Apheresis Donation


Temp:    99.0

Pulse:    96

Hemoglobin:   13.9

Blood Pressure:   128/94

I was pretty impressed with my hemoglobin count.  Wow.  Last year it was at a high of 14.0, this year I’m not eating a lot of red meat, which is what they say is the best source of iron and for donating.  Red meat is starting to disagree with me, so I’ve drastically cut it down.   I think the only red meat I’ve had in the past few months was one hamburger this past Sunday.  Still, I’m not saying that it’s the best thing to do; not even sure that it’s the best thing for me, but it is what it is.

So, I got to Rahway Hospital, otherwise known as Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital.  I really dislike it when they change the name of hospitals.  My husband was born at RAHWAY hospital. I know, I’m being irrational but there is so much history there and they go and change the name.  I digress…

Anyway, got there early and headed for the cafeteria for the Seattle’s Best coffee they serve there.  What I should have done was have something to eat (and you’ll see why), but I only had 15-20 minutes until my appointment.  They also have free wifi, and I’ve been known to publish posts while sitting right there.  Getting there early allows my body a chance to settle from the drive, as well.  I’ve been rejected from donating before because of my temperature being a little elevated.  By the way, having coffee right before having your temperature taken does not help at all.  Luckily, I brought from home a large water bottle of iced tea I started to guzzle when the technician reminded me that hot coffee = a no no.  Yes, I was being difficult.  Apparently, a lot of donors were being “difficult” that day.  At least she was laughing.

Everything seemed as normal as I remembered it, and I was able to give double units of platelets.  What I didn’t realize is that because it was approximately  a year since my last platelet donation, this time was like my first.  The body sort of gets used to it with time, and by that I mean this:  Your initial donation usually has, um, side effects, and everyone is different in this.  The most common thing to happen while undergoing the procedure is a tingly feeling in your lips and face.  For this, they give you TUMS, calcium supplements, which really does alleviate that feeling.  When donating, they use an anticoagulant such as sodium citrate.  A very good post with information is here.  I had a very good  phlebotomist this time and was reminded of the time at a different hospital when the phleb. messed up both of my arms and I could not donate at all that day… got me really mad because it was quite a drive for me during the end of the day commute craziness.

Everything went along pretty normal, and I went straight home.  Don’t think that after this you can go on ahead to a lively evening of fun, or even of just being out.  Again, everyone is different, but I get very tired and need to rest for the rest of the night.  What was different for me this time was that I really got sick.  I can’t say I was dizzy, but I was nauseous and had a headache to the point that I thought I was going to toss whatever cookies I had in me, but didn’t.  This persisted on into the next day (yesterday) and again, this morning still had a slight headache, but a cup of coffee fixed that right up.  Now, I don’t want this to discourage anyone from donating component blood, but I felt I should document it here because I really think that it’s due to the possibility I didn’t eat well enough before my donation.  Like I said before, I’ve not been eating a lot of red meat lately and for lunch, the meal right before my donation, I just had chicken soup and soy nougats that are supposed to have a lot of protein in them.  So, I don’t know.  Afterwards, I was so nauseous that I couldn’t bring myself to eat anything.  So maybe this should be the “CAUTION” paragraph.  Please make sure that you prepare yourself properly before a donation of platelets, or any component blood.  For whole blood they just tell you to drink a lot, and that’s important for platelets, too; but maybe because this procedure is much more involved that we need to be aware of and do more for ourselves, and for our own good.  Don’t act tough.  Don’t act stupid.  Taking care of yourself is cool.  Taking care of yourself is the most important thing you could do.

The following has not been researched:  Okay, something else I learned yesterday which was a shock; and this applies to all women out there.  I found out that if you’re not an already established platelet donor, all women are rejected from donating.  Something about what women carry and are transmitting to recipients of, I think, just platelets but really not sure.  The tech really didn’t explain it very well, so if anyone knows, please, PLEASE, let me know.  I tried to do a search, but so far getting just articles about the normal reasons women (or anyone) can’t donate like if you’ve gotten a tattoo in the last 12 months, or if you’re pregnant, or if you’ve been out of the county… etc.  You know, I don’t get the pregnancy part.  I’ve been pregnant and they still take me, albeit because I’m an established donor, but then the reasons a woman who’s been pregnant can’t give ARE pregnancy related.  Again, the content of this paragraph has not been researched…. yet.

I’ll keep ya posted.

Peeking my head in…..


Well, this dragon is rearing her massive head again.  I’ve not had anything pressing to talk about… anything Positive anyway.  This blog started to become a complaint center and I wanted to veer off from that.  I also had/have a massive case of writer’s block ever.  Maybe it’s my life just overwhelming me again, but here I am…. AND I do have something I must talk about.  I must work something out for myself and I need to write it down.

It all started with an article in our local paper about how it’s mandated that the BMI (Body Mass Index) number be included in our EHRs (Electronic Health Records).  Now, I’m well aware that ANYONE who bothers to do  the calculation will have access to it; but I’m very disturbed that it’s now a law.  I can see this being used for other than strictly health reasons.  I see the government allowing it to be used by insurance companies to refuse me life insurance, raise my health insurance premium, and whatever other use they come up with.  High Tech Discrimination.  Freedom at a minimum.  I definitely don’t see a positive for the individual to whom this BMI number belongs to.   For one thing the number is not fully accurate as being representative of your health.  The current way they calculate this number comes from your height and weight and not your natural body type.  (Of course I forgot the actual term for that)   According to “the” calculation, my spouse is considered to be overweight…. laughable!   Unfortunately, he just happens to be tall, sorry skinny, but tall Drake.

I went over to Wikipedia.  Check out what the Body Mass Index number was originally intended for and what it’s being used for now.  It shows how individuals who are taller have a reported BMI that is uncharacteristically high compared to their actual body fat levels. I urge you to read this Wiki article and pay close attention to “Usage” and “Limitations and Shortcomings”.

  1. It was originally meant to be used as a simple means of classifying sedentary (physically inactive) individuals with an average body composition.
  2. It allowed health professionals to discuss over- and under-weight problems more objectively with their patients.

The BMI cannot be used the same way across the board for everyone.  It’s used differently for children.  Athletes have a higher muscle mass so they need a different calculation altogether to access their fatness.  Another complication is the loss of height through aging.  There are all sorts of physical characteristics not taken into consideration and have a definite affect on this god-awful number which will become the thunderbolt of Zeus.  Again, I do urge you to do a little reading on the subject.  Don’t feel like it?  Don’t think it’s a big deal?  I can understand that because even I didn’t feel like it was necessary. We come to accept what’s handed down to us.  I’m sure that people who are healthy, fit and thin have come to understand what this number is supposed to mean to them and have accepted it, without question.   It’s a known, a given factor, something that we use as a guide post to let us know when our bodies reach “acceptability”.  “Do my pants look good on me now, dear?”   Look, seriously, there’s nothing wrong with an individual setting their own standards.  It’s their choice; but when that standard is forced upon all of us, I think we should be asking some questions… and getting some answers.

So, this prefaces some other stuff I’ll be writing about…. Have you guessed it?  Yes, I’m overweight and according to the BMI, I am obese, class I.  Ah, so NOW we know why she is talking out of her head!  Well, aside from my opposition to this whole BMI thing, another dragon has reared it’s head and it’s not going to shut up until I make a decision.  This is where ya’ll come in.  I’ll be discussing this issue here.  Writing has always been a good outlet for my thoughts and I’m hoping it will allow me to sort everything out to a satisfying result.

UP~DATE:

I’ve been asked to provide the link to the articles connecting the BMI to the law.   I apologize for not including it.  My original intention was to include it, but in my haste to publish, I neglected to link.  Thanks, Karen….

This article gives links to actual text of the law.  Hmmm 906 pages of something that is supposed to make our lives simpler.  That reporter could not find anything more than a vague reference to the BMI in the actual Bill, but found it elsewhere.  Below is a quoted paragraph from his article (and the link)

At this point, I was ready to declare the mandatory BMI screening a hoax. Just before I published this article however, someone pointed me in the direction of a document called HIT (Health Information Technology) Standards 170.302. This document purports to show Secretary Kathleen Sebelius’ new certification standards for electronic health records (EHRs).

Link to article in the Examiner. com Atlanta

Here is another article I read in the Wall Street Journal that draws a correlation between this new federal mandate and what they did to healthcare with the Massachusetts universal coverage plan.

The Massachusetts Health-Care ‘Train Wreck’

Definition of Apheresis:


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.

Meet "the Machine"

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:

  1. Withdrawal of your blood
  2. Separation of components needed
  3. 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.

Platelets Going Out!


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!

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