I Now Have Fewer Platelets

I had a call waiting for me on the answering machine yesterday from the Red Cross requesting my platelets: the nucleus-less cells in your blood responsible for clotting. Apparently, because my blood is A+, which is very common, my platelets are also useful in “times of need” like now. Anyway, they called back a second time later last night, so I knew they must be serious: I went ahead and made an appointment for today.

For those that have given blood before, you know that they take a pint of blood through a relatively large needle. Well, to take your platelets, they usually need to take more volume of blood than you can actually give in a single sitting. That means that they need to attach you to a contraption that carries out apheresis, which ends up removing some of your blood, spinning it down to get the platelets, sending the platelets up to a large bag (much like your usual blood bag, but bigger), and then putting your blood cells and plasma back in your body. To do this, the machine uses a smaller needle than you usually use to give blood, and it requires that you maintain a reasonable pressure of blood coming out of your body, related more to how fast you’re closing your hand and less to your typical blood pressure.

So yeah, it was supposed to take about 1.5 hrs, and ended up being more like 2 hrs. The poor girl removing the platelets had to re-set the needle multiple times (not fully remove it from my arm…just move it further in or a little bit out) in order to avoid a valve in my vein, which was causing abnormal changes in the pressure going to the machine. Every time that would happen, an alarm would go off and the machine would stop going, prolonging my stay in that chair. Eventually, I started pumping normally and I got done, but I ended up doing half of what was intended. It was kinda neat seeing a bag of platelets, though, as they look quite a bit different than a regular bag of blood – whiter, cloudier…just kinda funky, in general.

Regardless, I’ll probably do it again, eventually. My arm is just fine and I came out of it unscathed, but the 2 hr time commitment is a bit more difficult to deal with on a regular basis. Apparently, you can give platelets every 7 days, as you replenish them within a day or two of giving.

It’s a good way to help some folks out, if you’ve never done it! Just take a magazine with you… 🙂

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