Sunday, September 30, 2007

A poor design for blood donation

Apparantly, my arms aren't designed properly for donating blood. Ever since I can remember, people have always had trouble when trying to draw blood from my arms for doctor visits and such. There was one particular case where a nurse tried jabbing me with a needle three or four times before giving up and asking another nurse to give it a try. That paired with my propensity for fainting when having blood drawn has caused me to avoid donating blood.

I know donating blood is for a good cause and saves lives, so a couple months ago when a friend mentioned she was going to donate blood, I decided to try again. The last time I donated blood I was in high school over 20 years ago and I nearly fainted. Surprisingly, this time the whole process went quite well. While the nurse did mention my vein was a bit of a challenge, she had no problem getting the needle in on the first attempt, and I didn't even get light-headed.

So, two months later I became eligible to donate again and I was happy to give it another go today. Unfortunately, it didn't go so well. The nurse suggested that since I have a common blood type (A+) it would be worthwhile for me to do some sort of "double" donation of red blood cells. For this type of donation they hook you up to a machine and take twice the number of red cells than usual, but also attach a return tube to you to put back all your plasma and platelets and also add some saline. The nurse ran a quick test to see if I was eligible for this type of donation and it turned out I was - almost 50% of my blood was made up of red cells. So far so good. But, the problem started when the nurse went to attach me to the machine that would be filtering my blood. From what I've been told, the vein in my right arm is so well hidden it was immediately ruled out for use. The vein in my left arm is slightly better. After a consultation among three different nurses, one nurse didn't feel comfortable enough to attempt it, but the the other two thought it would be doable, just a bit challenging. The nurse was able to get the needle into the vein, but once the machine was turned on to draw my blood at a faster than normal rate, my vein collapsed and the blood flow stopped. The nurse tried to move the needle around a bit to get the blood flowing again, but it would always end up stopping a few seconds later. After about 15 minutes of this, they finally gave up. I had only donated 48ml of blood - not an amount that could be usable. I was told that in the future I should just stick with the normal "whole blood" donation. Since I had lost such a small amount of blood, I was told I could donate again right away. If my right arm actually had a vein they could use I could have done it right then. However they said I'll need to wait until the current vein in my left arm heals before coming back.

Hopefully I'll be back again next week for another donation attempt. It's just a slight discomfort and is definitely worth the minor inconvenience since it helps saves lives. Too bad my body doesn't seem to have a good design for donating blood.