Bandages galore

My left index finger is bandaged up, as previously noted. My right pinky has a dinky bandaid on it after we used it for getting a drop of blood out for a hematocrit this morning. And now I’ve got ice and a pressure bandage inside my right elbow after we had to stop my apheresis (donating blood platelets) this morning halfway through, due to having the needle either go too far or not far enough, and dumping a bunch of blood inside my arm. Not dangerous, but a little uncomfortable. Also, I’m going to have a giant multicolored bruise there for several days, apparently.

I’m bummed about how hard apheresis has been; this was my third time, and all three times have been difficult due to my having strong valves in my veins. Apparently – I hadn’t known this before the first time – veins have a series of one-way valves in them (pointing back towards the heart) which prevent blood from pooling in one’s extremities. Modern apheresis machines use a single needle for alternating draw/return phases; first it draws blood out, mixes a little anticoagulant into it to avoid gumming up the works, spins out the platelets in a little onboard centrifuge (which sounds like a dryer spinning up when it first gets going), and then returns the blood to you in a “return” phase. Each phase lasts less than a minute, and by watching the machine’s screen and paying close attention to the sensations in my arm, I could tell what each feels like. Problem is, the “draw” phase pulls blood backwards down the vein, and if the needle isn’t positioned just right or if (like me) one has strong, frequent valves, the back-pressure can make the valves slam shut. The machine notes that the draw pressure is too low and immediately flashes its lights and stops pumping. Usually the tech just hits “Continue,” I take a couple of squeezes on a squeezey-ball to inflate the vein a little, and it runs okay for a bit. Annoying, but doable.

Unlike red blood cells, which can last 42 days in proper storage, platelets only last 5 days. The most common recipients are people undergoing chemotherapy, and due to the short shelf life, hospitals are nearly always in need. DHMC called me up and asked me to come in because of my blood type (A negative), and a specific patient who’s in need. I was really bummed when we had to stop the donation midway through – it wasn’t a usable amount, so all the hassle was for nothing.