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June 26, 2008

i Saved a Life Today (and you can too).

i donated blood.

Actually, i donated Platelets. That's what they needed. i walked in intending to donate blood, but they said they really needed platelets. Okay then. I'd never done that before, so they told me what it was all about.

If you didn't already know, platelets are the part of your blood most-responsible for clotting. When people are undergoing chemotherapy, or they're transplant patients, or they have some unusual blood disease, their platelets are down and they don't have the same ability to control bleeding that healthy people have. Particularly-sick people need our platelets.

First you have to prove that you, yourself, are healthy enough to donate, so they give you a mini-physical. Fortunately my blood pressure and iron were both good. -Oh, and they give you a quiz. "Have you taken aspirin in the last 48 hours?" No. "Have you ever been to Haiti?" No. "Have you spent more than five years in Europe?" No. "Do you work or play with monkeys?" No! Then you engage the doctor in a staring contest. If she blinks first, you Pass.

Once they've taken care of all the pleasantries, it's time to strap you onto the blood-sucking machine. They don't call it blood-sucking though, they call it "apheresis". The machine looks and sounds like the console to Dr. Who's Tardis. There're lights and centrifuges. There're buttons and knobs. It whirrs and clicks. But it's cool.

They stick a little double needle wishbone thing into your arm and then the vital bodily fluids start flowing. No significant pain or anything, but of course it's alittle disconcerting because you're watching all five liters of your blood go out into the machine before it comes back into your body. They do warn you, however, that you might experience a "tingling in your lips". Apparently they mix a temporary anti-coagulant back into your blood. It's called Sodium Citrate and it binds with calcium. Since calcium is also used by your nervous system, nerve-dense areas of your body (which surprisingly does not seem to involve your groin) may then react to the deficiency with a tingling sensation. Fortunately i didn't really feel that side-effect, but the treatment for it is remarkably simple: they have you chew on a Tums or some other calcium antacid. Hmmph.

It did take much longer than a regular blood donation. I was on the machine for about 90 minutes and they offer you DVD movies in case it takes longer than that. Oh well. Any decent action worthy of being called a "good deed" should at Least be alittle inconvenient, right? Right.

And not only did i get a cool Red Cross t-shirt, they registered me for a chance to win 750 gallons of gasoline. Which is nice. Unless you're worried about your carbon footprint. In which case you might purchase some carbon off-sets to put your mind at ease. Somewhat. Did i mention the part about a free t-shirt?