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.