5 minutes, 28 seconds! Can I bleed or WHAT?

Looking back, that’s probably not the best headline for persuading you to give blood. But at least it got your attention, right?

I went to donate at the Red Cross last night, it having been at least 112 days since the last time I gave double-red cells (called the "Alyx" process) back in February. I was prepared to do that again — it’s a really cool process (quite literally, in that they take out your blood, remove the red cells and pump it back in mixed with saline that is a tad cooler than the blood, and the coolness spreads from your arm across your body; but maybe that’s more than you want to know). And, don’t ask me to explain this, but they actually use a smaller needle somehow.

But they had moved the bar on me. See, you have to have a certain amount of iron to do the double-red thing, more than just to give a pint of whole blood. I had been taking iron pills so as to avoid past humiliation, but they used a new test. On the old test, I had to have a "40." On the new one, you need a "14," and I only scored a 13.2. But that was plenty for whole blood, so they took me for that.

Here’s where the bragging comes in. I always try to accelerate the process of giving whole blood by clenching my fist more often than necessary. There was this guy who had started at least 10 minutes, maybe 15, before I did. Once they got started on me, about 2 or 3 minutes later, one of the technicians looked at my receiving bag and said "Whoa! He’s already ahead of him" — indicating the guy next to me. This encourages me to go into my "kick" for the home stretch, and I finished off my pint at five minutes, 28 seconds. The other guy was still going.

This was great, because in the past I’ve taken as much as half an hour for whole blood (Alyx takes longer, but then you have to wait twice as long before giving again), and even as many times as I’ve done this, I’ve never completely lost my dread of it (as I wrote in a column once, for me, giving blood was my Room 101). So I like to get it over with quickly. The secret of my success? Eat and drink (especially water) SO much the day of the donation that you feel like you’re about to pop — the higher blood volume makes a difference. That, and the fist-pumping.

Here’s hoping this doesn’t gross you out, because my point in writing about this is to say YOU should give, too. There’s a great need here in the Midlands, as always. If you can give (not everyone is qualified), and you won’t, then you’re a wuss. So there.

9 thoughts on “5 minutes, 28 seconds! Can I bleed or WHAT?

  1. David

    Props to you for donating blood Brad! When I was abord Navy ships and we would do battle training, one of the things that would be called away during battle exercises would be:
    “Now away the walking blood bank!”
    This meant that all able-bodied seamen not otherwise directly engaged in combat operations were to muster at sickbay to donate blood so that it was on hand and ready for use as casualties were taken. I always thought this was a pretty cool thing.
    Blood is a life-saver, combat or not.
    David

    Reply
  2. Brad Warthen

    Absolutely, and thanks.

    You know, one of the most impressive things that James Smith ever sent back in his missives from Afghanistan were some fairly gruesome pictures that he had shot of himself and comrades after having DRAWN BLOOD FROM EACH OTHER as a training exercise. I spared y’all those at the time, but for those of you with strong stomachs, here’s one . For those of you with STRONGER stomachs, here’s one captioned "victim of a drive-by IV."

    I would rather be in the first boat on Omaha Beach than do that. I’d rather jump out of an airplane into Osama’s backyard. In fact, I don’t think I COULD draw blood from another human being, physically. The only thing that keeps me from passing out at the Red Cross when they do it to me is that the seat reclines WAY back…

    Reply
  3. Wally Altman

    The experience of the guy you were racing against is about typical for me. Every time I go in, people who started after me finish before I do.

    Reply
  4. Lee Muller

    Maybe Brad should try reading some Walter Williams or listening to Rush Limbaugh while giving blood. That would simultaneously raise his blood pressure and his knowledge of how the world really works.

    Reply
  5. David

    You could do it.
    And you could do a bunch more besides. You’d be surprised what you’re capable of when it’s crunch time, people are shot up and they need you to be cool and clear minded.
    David

    Reply
  6. A little late....

    Giving blood IS so very important. I have you beat on the time, though. I have been known to do it in 4 minutes and change. I have also wondered if this ability isn’t actually a disadvantage with me being an athlete. I like to think that my body knows the difference between when I’m there to give blood versus when I crash on my bike. One time I should bleed quickly and the other time, not so much.
    I had a comment on your idea to drink a lot of water. As someone who often worries about her iron level for giving blood, I was once told that drinking a lot of water can actually work against me, and decrease the number that is needed. One thing that I will suggest for people worried about their iron level is Cream of Wheat. I learned this trick about 8 months back, and haven’t had a problem since. I start eating a double serving of it every day about a week before I give, and the number is always high enough.

    Reply
  7. A little late....

    Giving blood IS so very important. I have you beat on the time, though. I have been known to do it in 4 minutes and change. I have also wondered if this ability isn’t actually a disadvantage with me being an athlete. I like to think that my body knows the difference between when I’m there to give blood versus when I crash on my bike. One time I should bleed quickly and the other time, not so much.
    I had a comment on your idea to drink a lot of water. As someone who often worries about her iron level for giving blood, I was once told that drinking a lot of water can actually work against me, and decrease the number that is needed. One thing that I will suggest for people worried about their iron level is Cream of Wheat. I learned this trick about 8 months back, and haven’t had a problem since. I start eating a double serving of it every day about a week before I give, and the number is always high enough.

    Reply

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