Saturday, April 17

My Superpower (Not for the faint of heart)

I believe we all have a superpower. I'm not talking about leaping over tall buildings or stopping bullets with a bare hand, I'm talking about every day ordinary abilities that we take for granted.

About a week ago we had what are known as Santa Ana winds in Southern California. The climate becomes typically warm, extremely dry and very windy. As is often the case, the dry air caused me to have a bloody nose. It doesn't happen often but I've been getting spontaneous bloody noses since I was a kid, especially during Santa Ana winds. As always, I grabbed a tissue, laid down and pinched my nose for about 30 seconds. I then sat up to confirm that the nose bleed had stopped. It then occurred to me that that is my superpower. I make really good blood, I always have. I'm O+, the universal donor type, and my blood clots quickly and efficiently. I sat on my bed, staring at the Kleenex in my hand and thought "People die because they can't do what my body just did for me."

As a result, I found myself cruising down the road to The City of Hope to donate platelets. They are always in need of whole blood but platelets are particularly hard to come by because the procedure takes some time. As I drove on to the hospital campus and towards the donor building I saw an older man, standing in a hospital gown by the fountain enjoying the sun. He broke my heart but confirmed that I REALLY hoped my blood was all I'd thought it might be. I hoped that it would help someone like him.

Once in the center, I filled out an information form and answered some questions. The good news is that I'm just the right type to be a donor. The bad news is that I've led a rather dull life. I've not traveled to exotic locales, never been to prison, I've never been a drug user and I've never had any dangerous sexual habits. In other words I'm not likely to have any blood related diseases. I'm so boring that I've even started avoiding processed foods and have never been a coffee drinker. For God's sake, my blood is about as clean as it gets.

I then met some very nice nurses who gave me heated blankets and seated me in a nice comfy recliner. They explained the whole procedure: They were going to withdraw some of my blood, remove the platelets, then return the platelet-less blood back to my body then repeat. It would take 1 -2 hours depending on how I felt after an hour. I had reading material, I had time.

The nurses at The City of Hope are good. I felt only the tiniest of pinches in the crook of my arm and I was good to go. I said "Dang! You're good." the nurse smiled and said "You're in the big time kid! This is The City of Hope." I think they have to keep an eye on you for a few minutes so I sat and chatted with my nurse. I asked what they would do with my platelets. (It was all on the web site but I'd already forgotten.) She explained that platelets help our blood clot and that when someone goes through chemo, or has an otherwise weakened system they lose their ability to produce platelets. All sorts of terrible things can happen without platelets. You can bleed into your eyes (aghhhhhhhh!) or have a stroke or God knows what. The nurse told me to think of what I was doing as "Helping a mother not have a stroke so she can go to her daughter's wedding or meet her grandchildren." She added "I'm serious. What you're doing is literally saving lives." I guess I knew that when I walked in but hadn't thought of it so literally. It was nice of her to say it to me in that way.

I learned a few fun facts too. For instance, did you now that The Red Cross sells it's blood to hospitals? I'm not bagging on the Red Cross but I was disappointed to hear that a place like The City of Hope has to spend millions buying donated blood from The Red Cross. It seems that, because I was donating at the hospital, my donation would go directly to patients in need. I will be giving my superpower blood to The City of Hope from now on.

The bigger bummer came when, after a little while, I felt a bit of pressure and a sudden ache in my transfusion arm. I told the nurse about it because once a needle is inserted you really can't feel it and I figured it should be looked into. They had told me earlier that if I felt anything, anywhere on my body change that I should notify a nurse. I'm so glad I did. The nurse jumped up to check my arm and sighed. Brace yourself... my vein had collapsed. I know, I know... gross. Honestly, it didn't hurt much at all it just felt different. I have shy veins and they are sometimes hard to find. To the nurse's credit I didn't feel anything during insertion but apparently a needle can occasionally nick a vein on the way in and later shut down. That's what may have happened to me. Who knows. That or my vein was just plain wimpy. I think when the blood was being returned to my body the vein stopped working and that was the sensation I felt. It was a TOTAL BUMMER. None of my blood would be useful to anyone. I was sad but the nurse was very kind and encouraging but we were done for the day. I promptly made my next appointment.

The nurse handed me a list of iron rich foods I should eat since I wasn't getting my intended blood back. I felt a little light headed as she walked me to the "canteen" where they insisted I eat a cookie and drink something. (Sweet!)

It is good to know that my superpower is indeed my blood. I just wish my veins could keep up. Of course, I'll go back to any place that encourages me to eat more red meat and cookies.

On the way home I drove myself to Trader Joe's and picked up a nice filet mignon for dinner. I looked for iron supplements but couldn't find any. They must have some other name. I remained light headed for a while and even thought "Oh, my blood sugar must be low." Then I reconsidered and thought "No, spaz, your blood is low." In the end, I'm no worse for wear. I was incredibly tired when I got home so I took a nap. I felt fine when I woke up an hour later. I had filet mignon and asparagus for dinner, life is good.

I apologize if this post was too graphic for anyone but I believe giving blood, in any form, is so important. If anyone out there suspects they have superpower blood I hope you'll consider donating some regularly to your local hospital or even The Red Cross. If you live near The City of Hope I encourage you to donate there. They are such nice people and they are doing exceptional work. They have made some amazing discoveries in cancer research and deserve whatever you can do to help. If nothing else, do what you can to help that nice man in the hospital gown by the fountain. Otherwise, do as I did today and think of all of those you love who have fought, or are fighting, cancer.

If you'd like to read more about becoming a donor for The City of Hope you may do so here. Thanks for listening. I hope I didn't scare anyone off.


kb said...

Amazing post! You rock!

shandon said...

You are one cool chick, Lucy.

I used to sell my plasma when I was working for minimum wage (at age 29) in Indiana. The Plasma Alliance used a centrifuge to separate the plasma from the platelets; the latter would then be pumped back into my arm, along with saline solution. It probably would have been better to donate, but that extra $40 a week helped pay my rent. (And it was the only time in my life that it literally paid to be overweight.)

Incidentally, the universal blood type is O negative. I'm O positive myself.

hairpik said...

That's awesome! I'm O neg and belong to the 7% of the population that has it. I can donate to accident victims and babies. On the flip side, O's can only take O blood. So i think donating is a wonderful thing to do! Wonder Twin powers activate!

Hairpik said...

Actually i'm even more screwed. I can only take O neg. :(