Tag Archives: blood

Giving Blood, Giving Life, Giving Hope

20 Jan

I sit in the chair across from the nurse, anxiously waiting for that tiny little needle to pierce the end of my finger.  Has it worked?  Has my healthy eating, strict regimen of iron-enriched vitamins, and consumption of gross vegetable juice made my blood as healthy as it needs to be? If I am turned away now, I will be pissed off.

I am lost in my thoughts, willing my blood to cooperate, trying to analyze everything I’ve eaten in the – OUCH!  Holy crap!  For a tiny little needle that HURTS!

Not as much as the big fat needle going into my arm is going to hurt.

Not as much as the multitude of agony that Captain Snuggles has endured over the last five months has hurt.

It’s a tiny little needle, don’t be such a baby.

The nurse puts a little smear of blood onto a slide and feeds it into a machine.  She tells me that the number has to be 125 or higher.  We wait for a few seconds, the machine beeps, and…

…154.  YES!  As I follow the next nurse into the next screening area, I imagine my healthy blood cells, marching around my body like sergeants, getting ready for deployment into the next human body that needs them.

Screening goes well.  My temperature is good.  My blood pressure prompts the nurse to tell me I must work out a lot.  My heart rate is slightly elevated because I am excited to be doing this.  No lesions or bruises on my arms, all of my questionaire answers are acceptable.

I am deemed Fit To Donate.

I am taken to a row of folding chairs, where I take a seat and wait my turn.  I know that my friend extraordinaire and maid of honour Michelle is a short way behind me in the process.  I look for her and she is not in the room; she is probably in the screening area telling the nurse whether she has ever taken money for sex or taken cocaine intravenously.

As I am waiting, a man starts to pass out with his blood in mid-flow.  The kindly woman seated beside me looks at my “First Time Donor” sticker (which I feel entitled to since my one and only donation attempt, over 20 years ago, ended in disaster and could not be completed) and says, “Don’t look at him.  He’s a man.  Us girls can handle this!”

I am led to one of the stations, and as I take my seat in the thing – it’s not a chair; it’s not a bed; what’s the word for it? – I imagine those blood cell sergeants lining up in my arm, getting ready for their marching orders.

Michelle takes a seat on one of the folding chairs, which means I can talk to her instead of looking in the direction of the nurse who is taping tubes to my arm in an ominous manner.  I squeeze my eyes shut, grit my teeth, and – the needle is in!  Those little sergeants have started marching!  I imagine the blood cells in the Captain’s body straightening up and getting their act together (because let’s face it, they have been slacking off in the last little while).  I imagine them coming together, strong and whole, forming a line of defence against illness and infection.

As my blood flows out of me, I imagine Captain Snuggles getting better.  I picture his broken body healing, becoming whole.

My actual blood will not get to Captain Snuggles.  But it will get to someone who needs it.  Captain Snuggles, through his suffering, will have saved a life.  Many lives, since I am now committed to being a regular donor.

It takes less than ten minutes.  When the needle is removed, I sit in my thing-thats-not-a-bed-or-chair for the prescribed five minutes.  There is more fiddling with my arm and bandages, and then I am permitted to go and sit down in the cookie and juice room (no caffeine for first-time donors!)

As I sit there drinking my orange juice and eating my cookie, I imagine where my blood will go from here.  Samples will go to the lab for testing, and the donation will be added to the blood bank.

I imagine it being transfused into someone’s broken body, transforming the probability of death into the possibility of life, into hope.

I imagine the joy of some family, in some hospital, when they are given the news that their loved one is going to make it.

I imagine Captain Snuggles healing and becoming whole.

I imagine myself someday saying to him, “Thank you.  Thank you for making me a better person.”

Making The Giving Worthwhile

15 Jan

On Thursday morning (at 11:30 a.m. EST if anyone wants to be that precise) I will be donating blood.  I am greatly looking forward to it, and if you’re reading any sarcasm in that sentiment, none whatsoever is intended.  I really, genuinely, truly am looking forward to sitting in one of those reclining chairs while a unit of my blood is transferred from my body for the purpose of saving a life that needs saving.

I am excited to be doing this.  I am excited to be doing something, giving of myself in some small way, to help other people.

The last time I tried to donate was about twenty years ago.  I passed the initial iron test and got settled in one of the reclining chairs in the clinic.  The entire process from that point on was an absolute disaster.  The nurse – a kind, gentle soul who felt terrible about the pain she was putting me through – had to poke multiple holes in both arms before she could get the blood to flow.  When it did flow, it was painfully slow, and when about third of a unit had been taken from me, I passed out. I was sick for days after that, and when I went to my doctor, he advised me not to donate blood while my health was in such a fragile state.

It just wasn’t the right time for me to donate, back then.  There was a whole mess of crap happening in my life, and the stress of it all took its toll on my health.

Now things are different.  I am fit and healthy.  I am not under constant stress, I sleep as much as two kids and a hectic schedule allow me to, and my running regimen pretty much forces me to eat more or less healthily.  I am ready to put the memory of my last donation attempt behind me and try it again.  I am confident that the results will be far, far better.

I’m doing what I can to make sure, though.  My main objective over the next few days is to ensure that my blood is whole and healthy, that it can indeed be used to help someone who needs it.  If I show up on Thursday to give my pint of blood in honour of Capt. Snuggles, and they turn me away because my iron is too low, I will not be happy.  I have to do whatever I can to make sure that does not happen.

I share these tips for the benefit of anyone reading this who might be interested in donating blood (Michelle, maid of honour and friend extraordinaire, has already said that she will try to join me on Thursday).

  • For several days prior to donating, eat foods rich in iron.  Breads, meat, fish, chicken, fruit, raisins, nuts, dark leafy greens.  This is especially important for the ladies, whose iron levels tend to be less stable.
  • Be aware that many foods rich in iron are also high in fat, and a high lipid content can also result in you being turned away.  For 2-3 days before you donate, focus on a low-fat diet, but keep on consuming iron-rich foods that are low in fat.
  • Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate.  If you don’t drink enough fluids, the nurses will have a hard time finding your vein, and once you are hooked up, your blood will flow slowly and the process will take longer.  Limit sugar and caffeine in your beverages, since these slow the absorption of water.
  • Get enough sleep!  This will not necessarily change the quality of your blood, but it will make your recovery a lot easier.
  • The day before, load up on iron-rich foods, but ones that are low in fat.  Drink lots of water and go to bed early.
  • The day of, have a good breakfast so that you have the calories to start regenerating your blood.  Eat fruits with a high water content, and drink water and energy drinks (this can also give you one last iron boost before you go).
  • Try to eat either a meal or a snack right before you go.  You don’t want to donate on an empty stomach.  Take a bottle of water with you.
  • After you’ve made your donation, sit down and rest, and have a snack to raise your blood sugar.  Many clinics provide juice and cookies – if you don’t have a snack of your own on hand, accept the juice and cookies!
  • Light to moderate exercise several hours after you donate will help raise your energy levels.  I’m not talking about a five-mile run, I’m talking about an easy walk.

Many of these are good inroads to a healthy lifestyle, and following these steps will help make your blood healthy and vibrant.   If you are medically able to donate blood, I appeal to you to please consider it.  It really could be a matter of life and death for someone.

I am humbled and kind of ashamed that it has taken this – the life-threatening tragedy of a little baby – to spur me on to do this.  Ultimately, it is Captain Snuggles saving lives here, because he is the reason I am doing this.

Click here for Amy’s latest update on Capt. Snuggles.

Life Blood

12 Jan

What can I do?

This has been the question plaguing me for the last few days, while friend and fellow writer Amy sits at her critically ill baby’s bedside, waiting, hoping and praying.  I have been doing my best to send out an ever-expanding circle of positive energy to Amy, and to the baby, David.  I have tried to let Amy know – hopefully Amy does know – that I am with her in spirit, waiting and hoping and praying with her. I have been giving my own kids lots of extra hugs, letting them stay up past their bedtime just so that I could have an extra fifteen minutes with them, not getting so het up over silly things that prior to learning about the severity of David’s illness, would have had my knickers in a twist.

All of this is important.  I believe that the positive thoughts and the shifts in focus and the offers of support do at least let the intended recipient know that they are being thought of, that they are not alone.  But it doesn’t seem enough.  I have found myself wishing, longing to do something practical to help make this journey even a little bit easier for Amy to bear.

What can I do?

The obvious problem is that Amy and I live in different countries.  If I lived in Ohio, I would be able to do stuff.  I could cook meals for Amy’s family.  I could take her laundry away and bring her fresh changes of clothing.  I could bring books to read to Captain Snuggles. I could offer to babysit her kids so that she could get time with her husband.  The list of what I could do if I were there goes on and on.  But the fact remains that I live in Toronto and Amy lives in Ohio.

What can I do?

Realistically, my ability to help Amy in any practical sense is severely limited.  But this morning, I thought of something I can do that could potentially help other people in her situation, in David’s situation.

Over the last few days, Captain Snuggles has had multiple blood transfusions.  His mother has watched desperately as his life blood has flowed out of him faster than it can be replaced.  Without the transfusions he has received so far, it is extremely likely that David would not still be with us.

That blood has to come from somewhere.  I have plenty of what I assume is perfectly good blood: there is no reason for me to not give it to someone whose life might well depend on it.

The last time I donated blood, it did not go well.  But that was twenty years ago, and due to extremely stressful events that were happening in my life at the time, my health had taken a hammering.  Now my health is fine, and I feel inspired to give it another go.  There is a blood donor clinic at my place of work next week, and I have made my appointment to be a part of it.  For the next week, I will be eating lots of healthy stuff and doing what I can to make sure my blood is whole and healthy.

Maybe this small act will save someone’s life.  Maybe it will bring some family back from the brink of despair.  Maybe it will give someone hope.

Amy, if you are reading this, I really wish I could do something that would help you directly.  But please know that my decision to donate blood is inspired by you and your beautiful boy.  Even though he will not physically benefit, I am doing this for Captain Snuggles.

(Photo credit: Flickr Creative Commons Attribution License)