Today I planned to give a platelets donation via apheresis. At a high level, they take blood out of your system through a needle in one arm, it goes through a centrifuge where the different blood components (plasma, platelets, red blood cells, white blood cells) are separated, and then put the components that they are not using as part of the donation (in this case the plasma and red blood cells) back into your system via a needle in the other arm.
Yes, that's right - a needle in each arm.
The full process - in the door to out of the door - normally takes about 2 hours. They say it should take about an hour sitting in the chair while the machine draws blood, separates it and puts it back. The American Red Cross supplies DVD players to patients who are doing apheresis donations - so I was prepared and picked up Run Fatboy Run from the Redbox at the local grocery store. I was psyched to take a long lunch break, watch a movie and do a good deed.
Except, I neglected to listen to one very important instruction...."keep your arm still". Come on, it can't be THAT important, right?
I sat in the chair, started the movie and put the headphones on. They first stuck the needle into my right arm which was going to be the "receiving" arm. Everything went well here - needle was in, and they started to run saline into my veins. No problems. Then they went to my left arm, put the needle in and started to collect the first small amount of blood for test tubes for testing purposes - just like in a normal whole blood donation. I was pumping the little squish ball once every 5-10 seconds and things were going fine.
I think it was around this time that I must have moved my right arm as all of a sudden it started to sting. I mentioned this to the person taking my blood and she moved over to my right arm and lifted the gauze that was on the needle. Whoa! There was a huge lump in my arm just above the needle (of course after I saw what was happening the sting hurt 10X more!). I was told that this was just saline - I probably moved my arm so the needle was no longer where it originally was (when the saline was flowing without any problems).
She stoped the saline line (the bump went down in a matter of seconds) and took the needle out. She then stopped the blood flow on my left arm and started running saline there. Then she was back to my right arm to see if she could find another vein. There was another candidate so she prepped my right arm to go in again. Once again, she got the needle in and we were good to go.
However, I was all mixed up. I thought that now the left arm was going to be the receiving arm and the right one was going to be where the blood would be drawn. I was trying so hard to keep my left arm still - and not worrying about the right one as much. Guess what? I must have moved the right arm again, as it started to sting. Again a little bubble in my arm and botched attempt number two.
That was the end of my first apheresis donation attempt. Very little blood was drawn, so I can do it again as soon as my arms heal up (probably later this week or early next week). They told me not to worry - that many first time platelets donors are unsuccessful on their initial attempt.
I'm not sure whether I'll do this again. Perhaps I should just stick to regular whole blood donations. However, I still want to see if the platelets donations will have less of an impact on my running than the whole blood donations have had. So of course I'll likely give it another try soon.
In the meantime, I'll have some battle wounds for the next few days. Luckily it's winter and I'm not wearing short sleeved shirts!