I just donated platelets for the first time

I’ve been a blood donor for many years.

In fact, I’m about to hit the personal milestone of 4 gallons donated in my lifetime. That’s a lot when you realize the human body only holds about 1.3 gallons; it means I’ve given about three times my own body’s worth of blood so far.

I plan to give lots more because, as a Hero for Babies, my blood is specially earmarked for premature and newborn infants. That makes me want to donate as much as I possibly can.

So what made me decide to change it up and try donating platelets? That’s a good question.

I was honestly very nervous about giving platelets before my appointment. I envisioned it as somewhat akin to the bad guys in the Dark Crystal sucking the life essence out of little gelflings.

Fortunately, it wasn’t that bad.

The nice folks at the Red Cross Blood Services have been bugging me to donate Power Reds or platelets for a while now. It used to annoy me. Like what gives – I donate my blood, but that’s not enough!? Now, you want MORE?!

But then I read more about it and realized that many cancer patients need platelets. My beloved mother-in-law needed many blood transfusions and cancer treatments over the years of her illnesses. That alone makes me want to help.

I figure since I’m young, strong and healthy, I should try to help as much as I can. Sure, I’m already helping babies through my blood donations. But if I can do even more, shouldn’t I try to? That’s why I decided to give donating platelets a shot.

I went into it knowing this might be a “once and one” thing. I’m not a martyr. In general, if something is a miserable experience, I won’t be doing it again. But giving blood is relatively easy for me so I had every reason to believe donating platelets would also go smoothly. And if that’s the case, I feel a moral imperative to do it.

Call it karma, but I like to put positive energy out into the universe and give back or pay forward whenever I can. My life philosophy actually most closely aligns with the Jewish concept of “Tikkun Olam” – the process of repairing the world, little by little, through acts of kindness.

Here’s the thing, though. Donating platelets requires good veins in both arms, and for some time, I’ve been a one-arm donor.

When I donate blood, they can never find veins in my left arm; only in my tattooed one. It’s a bummer because clearly, I would rather not have needles stuck in my gorgeous tropical art sleeve! But, alas, that’s the only place they can find a decent vein.

So, going into my platelets donation, I had a few doubts about whether it would work. Sure enough, on the day of my appointment, they could not find a viable vein in my left arm. They decided to move ahead using just my right arm, but that slows down the process and is actually harder on the platelets donor.

Typically, they take your blood from one arm and then give it back to you, minus the platelets, via your other arm. With a one-arm platelets donation, they take some blood, then give it back without the platelets, and the process continues over the course of several hours. It means you only get one needle stick, but it’s hard on the vein to be both pushed and pulled, if you get my drift.

Sure enough, my vein didn’t like it. Things started to go south after donating for about an hour. They had a decent amount of red stuff and yellow stuff (plasma and platelets) collected. But before they could give me back the part I was owed, my vein said “nope” and they had to stop. I had a little pain and swelling but nothing too terrible.

Overall, it was not an unpleasant experience. The Red Cross staff treat their platelets donors like gold – you get your own headset and can watch anything you like on the TV. They also cover you with warmed blankets anytime you get chilly (it’s a shivery business donating platelets because the liquid they put back into you is slightly chilled).

I wish I had been able to complete the donation, but they said they had enough “product” to call it a win. And I’m glad I tried it. Now, my goal will be to work on getting the veins in my left arm whipped into shape. I plan to start lifting some weights and get back to doing pushups in the hopes of enticing them to make an appearance.

And in the meantime, I’ve already got my next blood donation appointment scheduled in a couple of months. I can’t keep those babies waiting too long!

Have you ever donated platelets, and did you have a good experience? I will totally do it again if I can go two-armed, the way it’s supposed to be done.

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About the author

Proud and loving midlife mama. Lucky and devoted wife. Dog, cat and snake mom. Travel nut. Natural born writer. PR and social media pro by day - tattoo doula by night.
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