Among my pandemic activities have been three visits to give blood at Henderson’s Whitney Ranch Drive Vitalent donation center. Vitalent is the more recent name of United Blood Centers. My father always donated blood, so it’s a family thing. My reward? Lots of “thank-yous” and a t-shirt or two. In other times, tickets to local shows were occasionally given as well.
I was surprised early on during the pandemic shutdown that blood donations were still “a thing.” I knew thousands of donation sites in the country had closed because surgical needs for blood have lessened, and during the pandemic, folks weren’t having as many operations or car accidents as earlier. However, I did see the American Red Cross advertisements saying the need for blood was critical, and soon, I received a call reminding me to set up a donor appointment. Apparently many previous donors were not available to donate, yet blood was still needed for transfusions due to illness, accidents, burns, etc. (Note:there are no upper age limits to giving blood.)
My most recent donor appointment was last Friday and, for those readers curious about donation during a pandemic, here is the routine. The day of my donation, I go online and complete a form asking me questions about any medications I may be taking, illnesses I have had, trips I may have taken overseas, sex partners, etc. I answer the questions online and then print a sheet with a special code that afterwards is used to upload my answers at the donor site.
I arrive at the donor site wearing a mask and wait outside for a masked someone to welcome me and take my temperature. I then wait in the magazine-less almost chair-less reception area until one of the phlebotomists, Maria, introduces herself and takes me into a small room where she goes over the answers on the questionnaire. If my answers don’t raise any issues, she then pricks my finger to get a sample of my blood to see if it contains enough iron for donation. (I eat lots of meat and spinach in the week prior to my donation and take a few iron ills as well to make sure I pass.) Maria also takes my temperature and blood pressure (Friday the blood pressure was quite low, probably due to the great amounts of sleep one gets during a shutdown). I then electronically sign a couple of consent forms.
My iron qualified me to give whole blood, so I was taken to the large room where the donor lounge chairs are located. I chose my right arm as the donor arm and a rubber hose-like thing was snugly wrapped around my upper arm to expose my veins. Then Maria scrubbed the donor area with alcohol for a long time before placing a fine needle in one of my now-visible veins. (The pin prick is brief and not at all problematic.) I was given a rubber heart in my right hand to periodically squeeze. Then for the next 15 minutes or so I talked and looked around the room while my blood flowed.. Friday, the room was almost empty, but I was told that a half hour before I arrived, every donor chair had been occupied. Because I made sure to drink lots of water before my visit, my donation went quickly. Along the way, I was asked my name and birth date several times making sure labels with my name and birthdate were affixed to My blood samples and bag.
When the donation ended, I was then given a small piece of cotton to hold over the area where the needle had been and was asked to raise my arm in the air. I was then given a color choice of long stretchy wrap to secure the cotton patch. The wrap completed, I was thanked and told not to do any heavy lifting for several hours (no problem). I was asked if I would like a beverage (water, orange juice, etc.) and/or a snack (cookies, pretzels, etc.) and the requested items are brought to me. (In the past, in the recovery area, we could help ourselves to drinks and choose among lots of snacks all piled up in a basket on each table.) I sit in the recovery area for 15 minutes and then go to the check-out counter, make my next appointment, am given a sheet telling me (in essence) that if I have a bad reaction from donating or if there is any reason my blood should not be used, I am to call a specific number.
I am also told to check my online Vitalent profile in the “wellness” area and within two weeks I will be told whether my blood had any Cooid 19 antibodies. If so, I am guessing my blood would be used with Covid 19 patients.
In the end, I’m feeling fine. And yes, I am, like the country’s millions of other blood donors, just a little pleased with myself.