A grateful heart: Donating granulocytes, gaining compassion

A few hours hooked up to an old-school leukapheresis machine. So weird to see blood going in one arm and out the other and through the machine. Note to yourselves, platelet donors: Although more intense due to the dual-armed nature, the physical side effects were MUCH gentler than platelet donation. If you get the chance, it’s no big deal.

She got me with a “foot in the door” technique. As a some time scholar of persuasion, I can’t believe I fell for it, but after helping to hopefully save a life this week, I’m so glad I did.

I got the call a few days ago–the local blood bank asking for a donation. I thought the call was strange as I was already scheduled to give platelets but the woman explained they needed me for something special. Apparently I matched certain qualifications for a hospital patient in distress, someone who desperately needed specific blood products that not everyone can give.

Could I help out, she asked? It would take a few hours.

Sure, I said. My regular platelet donation is a several hour commitment anyway.

And then she told me it was two-armed procedure. Several hours strapped to a chair with a needle in each arm. Argh. That’s the “foot in the door” persuasion technique. Get someone to agree to something small, and they’re likely to agree to more.

I admit not being excited about the procedure–nervous even!–but I showed up to a very quiet blood bank and the proverbial red carpet was out. I was escorted to a private room with a team just for me and they explained they would be extracting “granulocytes” which are baby white blood cells.

As soon as the procedure was done, the blood would be transported to a nearby hospital, tested and then hopefully given to the patient right away. I asked what the blood would be used for and the nurses explained the person in need probably had a severely compromised immune system and needed help fighting infection.

You know it’s going to be a good day when you and your
nurse are both wearing pink sneakers. A huge shout out
to the team at Blood Source in Midtown Sacramento!
Say hi to Sal and Christina, the best nurses ever,
if you visit!

I said a little prayer for the patient and sat down to choose a movie. I understood the need for a private room immediately–with both arms, um, occupied, the only way to pass time involved watching TV or a movie (or pestering nurses, but funny, they didn’t give me that option!). And with the amount of monitoring required, the usual personal TV and headphones set-up that goes along with platelets wouldn’t work.

So I picked something long and complicated–Inception with Leonardo DiCaprio–and settled in for the long haul.

About 30 seconds after the needles were inserted and the procedure got going, I realized just how often I use my hands. To emphasize a point. To tuck hair behind an ear. To scratch my nose. Can I tell you how humbling it is to ask a stranger to help you with those type of personal comfort issues?? To be completely reliant on others for water, to adjust your body, to make anything happen?

The staff at Blood Source kept profusely thanking me before, during, and after the procedure but I felt so humbled and thankful for the insight. Being able-bodied and healthy is something I take for granted. This experience, just a few hours on a Wednesday, taught me so much, and I am grateful.

I was especially touched to think about saving a specific life. They always say donating is saving lives, but its a little abstract. I know that I was helping a person in my community, that very day. Kind of mind blowing.

So, if you’re well and healthy, please consider donating blood or platelets or plasma. It’s EASY (read this detailed account of giving whole blood to learn more) and really does save lives.


Blood Source (for Northern and Central California donors!)
Red Cross

Related links:
Visiting the “vampires”: Donating blood is easy, un-scary and saves lives


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