Tuesday, August 02, 2005

10th Pint

Every eight weeks, like clockwork, the Blood Centers of the Pacific ask me to come down for a pint. Since we've been in San Francisco I have donated (as of this morning) ten pints--a gallon and a quart, if I calculate that right. Giving blood is one of those things which seems both karmically sound and easy--go in, answer a few questions, sit still for twenty minutes, have a doughnut and a cup of tea and sit for another twenty minutes, then go on my way. No one else in the family feels that way--Spouse, for all he is a doughty fellow, is squicked out by the notion of giving blood (although in justice I think he would, if there were some emergency). SG, who is still too young, also has a significant fear of needles--so significant that she's undergoing desensitization treatment. The very mention of going to the Blood Center with me made her promise to clean her room and eat her vegetables. And YG, also too young, is squicked out a little too--she once came with me when I donated, insisting that it would be really cool, only to find that she preferred talking to the phlebotomists and pointedly not looking at Mama with the needle in her arm. I'm also an organ donor, should I die with my innards useable, and have had to have some stern talks with Spouse about this; organ donation squicks him out too. Again, I like the idea of doing something good so effortlessly--if I can't use my heart or my kidneys or whatever, why shouldn't someone else have them and bless my name (it really is all about me).

But part of the reason I give blood is that I love the technology. I mean, really. I remember when I first gave blood, waaaaaay back in the '70s, when I was a Harvard employee; the technology was comparatively primative. Yes, they had the plastic collection bags, but they didn't have all the other cool things. Like, nowadays, rather than swabbing you down with a cotton ball soaked in alcohol, and then one soaked in iodine, they have a prepackaged swab: squeeze it til it pops and the alcohol is dispensed for swabbing. Turn it over, squeeze it again, the swab has iodine on it. Easy-peasy. Then there's the little metal crimps they put on the line, after you've filled up the bag, to seal off the blood in the bag but still allow the phlebotomist to eke out some blood for the four test tubes that accompany your donation (so they can test for various things that would make the blood ineligible for transfusion). And the cool little cylindrical widget they put on the line, which diverts the blood into the test tubes. And the blue plastic thing which, at the end, they use to withdraw the needle from the vein. I'm sure all these things have proper names, and the fact that somewhere someone is inventing these tools foolishly delights me.

Granted, I'm the kind of woman who was cranky because, when she had an emergency C-section, they wouldn't let me watch. I love those "true tales of the ER" things on The Learning Channel. So giving blood not only helps my community, it means I get to watch the process and admire all the tiny, easily-taken-for-granted bits of technology. It's win-win for me.


Blogger Jonquil said...

If you want technology, ask about platelet apheresis. It's AMAZING. They grab blood out of your arm, centrifuge it, keep the platelets, and put the rest back, all in one continuous flow. It used to take two needles, an input and an output, but the most modern machines now use only one. The only downside is that it's at least a two-hour time commitment.

I really ought to sign up to do that again; I did it when I lived in the Southland.

Oh, I love you/A gallon and a quart...

1:08 PM  
Blogger Madeleine Robins said...

...you betcha bloody heart I do!

I've never done apheresis, but I often watch in awe as the people in the front of the room go through it. It's pretty cool (and they get to watch movies; you'd think that would draw the kids in. If they could watch movies and eat doughnuts? But...no.)

2:03 PM  
Anonymous L.N. Hammer said...

I had to stop giving blood during grad school, one pint short of my 2-gallon pin. The only findable vein on either arm began collapsing when you poke it, and the last half-pint (all they got) took a painful half hour to come out. Which is really annoying, as I'm O-neg and want to give blood.

He whined.

Good for you for giving.

---L, nibbles cheese.

2:35 PM  
Blogger Madeleine Robins said...

I have veins that make strong EMTs and phlebotomists drool. My blood pressure is low (this morning it was 96/75) which means the process takes a little longer than it might otherwise, but the veins are good.

L my dear, in the place where karma is doled out, your willingness to give your O Neg is surely being taken into account. You cannot give what your veins will not permit...

8:50 PM  

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