Monday, January 11, 2010

Adventures in Blood Donation

My biggest concern last summer, when I considered donating blood for the first time, was that it would affect my running. I decided to wait until the winter, when I would not be running as far or with as much intensity. Right now I don't have any upcoming races, and I'm not doing any major endurance exercising, so I thought that now would be a good time, and when the support staff and I arrived at the blood bank yesterday, I wasn't very worried. I should have known that it would turn into an adventure, though.

I filled out some paperwork and was screened for eligibility. I received the H1N1 vaccine last week, and my blood pressure was low (proof of cardio-vascular fitness!), but I was still eligible.

I then was guided to a table where another technician was there to draw the blood. He could clearly see my vein but had a little trouble getting it to "pop' enough. Maybe because of that low blood pressure? Then he elevated my legs (again, because of low pressure?) and gave me a ball to squeeze, and I looked at the ceiling and counted the seconds between squeezes.

The technician checked on me every few minutes, asking if I was feeling dizzy or unwell. The last time he asked how I was doing, I said I was fine and continued focusing on the ball. Ten seconds later, I was dizzy. I was laying down, but all of a sudden it felt like I was whirling around the room. I called to him to tell him, and then I went somewhere. I've been trying to remember what I was saying or doing, but I can't remember. I do remember that it was interrupted by excited voices, and another second later I was looking up at several faces looking down at me, putting ice packs on my face and chest. I felt like throwing up and really couldn't tell much of what was going on.

Once the nausea passed, I just lay there and felt better. The support staff came to make sure I was ok, even though he had just had blood drawn himself and should have been sitting down and eating some snacks.

The adventure was almost over, but not quite. As if passing out wasn't enough, my fingers turned white, went numb, and were startlingly cold. Then my legs - from the thighs down - started to tingle. The technicians gave me a blanket and lowered my legs, and after that, I was just about back to normal. I drank fluids, ate some cookies, rested, and after a while, I was ready for the support staff to take me home.

The funny thing is, before I left, the technician who did my screening came up to me to tell me not to worry about it happening the next time. I was a little shocked by that. I asked her if the blood pressure was the reason, and she said that I my low blood pressure is normal for me because I run, and that I was probably just nervous because it was my first time. So if low blood pressure is normal for me, wouldn't that mean that it's normal for me to pass out when I give blood? Just a thought.

I wonder if other runners/athletes have had this problem. I tried to do some quick searches on the internet to see if I could find articles or message board posts, but I didn't come up with much. Unfortunately, I think that it will continue to be a problem for me, so I probably will not be doing it again.

Throughout this adventure, I felt like I was invoking T.S. Eliot's "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock":

"Do I dare
Disturb the universe?"

Not unless I want to end up "Like a patient etherized upon a table", apparently.

1 comment:

Jenny said...

I used to pass out all the time from getting blood drawn (even a little bit). Then I was in the hospital with a complication from a blood disorder where they had to draw blood every hour... Let's just say I got over it and don't ever have any problems anymore. :). I don't think it was directly because you were nervous, but it was just your body's response- almost like a mini shock? If you gave blood more, your brain and your body would be used to that, and you probably wouldn't have any issues. Oh yeah, I also have very low blood pressure. Way to go running!