For the last couple of years, my now-18-year-old son has been donating platelets at the nearby hospital. He began at 16 with his father who is a regular donor. His dad created a wonderful father/son, help-save-a-life, outing and Aidan really took to it.
Even after a medical mistake, which left him with a debilitating bruise for weeks, he returns. He donates regularly; at least every other month. The email alerting him of the “life” he helped save fills him with joy and satisfaction. It’s one of the ways, he says, that he is able to give back.
What Is Better Than Including Your Mother In Your Altruistic Endeavor?
“an open gash on your head on a cold bathroom floor can be deadly”
He began sharing his experiences with me more regularly, suggesting I join him. At first, I didn’t think much of it. I don’t do well with needles, never have, and I have a tendency to pass out. OK, tendency is a bit strong. But I do have low blood pressure and have found myself on the receiving end of a blackout more than a handful of times in my life. Blacking out isn’t particularly dangerous in and of itself, but an open gash on your head on a cold bathroom floor can be deadly. But for that, I’d be first in line to selflessly have my platelets hoovered out of my willing bod, for sure.
Okay, okay, I’ll come clean: There’s no one on God’s green earth who could cajole me into a situation where my arm is tourniqueted and taped down to a chair, while a large 16- to 17-gauge needle sucks out my blood, removes the platelets, and then returns the blood back to me for over an hour. Or, at least that’s what I would have told you six months ago.
The Need For Privacy:
“Don’t we always pay for sex, in one way or another?”
A couple of weeks ago, I took time off from work for just that purpose. My son drove us to the hospital, navigating the parking deck and maze-like hospital corridors like an attending physician. The minute we entered the Blood Donation Center he was greeted, by name, by everyone on staff. He quickly introduced me to the staff and then we were whisked away, to separate rooms, for the intake questions.
It only took two questions before I understood why we were separated. “Have you taken money, drugs, or other payment for sex in the past three months?” Hmmmm…. I wanted to say, “Don’t we always pay for sex, in one way or another? What about that glass of wine my boyfriend offered me?” And I couldn’t help but wonder, how was my 18 year old son answering this whopper? Not far behind that doozy, they asked: “Have you used needles to take any drugs not prescribed by your doctor in the past three months?” At this point, I figured I’d be happy to see my son strapped to that donor chair in a few minutes
And, strapped to the chair he was. As an experienced donor, he breezed through the intake questions and was already donating platelets, squeezing a sponge ball, snacking on cookies and Coke, and deeply ensconced somewhere in the land of Netflix when I came out to join. They began setting me up next to him. Within ten minutes I could hear the humming and murmur of the machine.
How It’s Supposed To Work:
Quickly, for those of you who have no idea how a platelet donation works, whole blood is drawn from one arm into a sterile kit inside a cell separating machine. The machine separates the blood so that only platelets and plasma are collected. The other blood components (red cells and white cells) are returned to the donor via the same arm.
Seems simple enough.
While Aidan’s machine purred next to me, mine complained, pinging and beeping, almost incessantly. Apparently, pressure from the needle sucking out the blood was causing my veins to collapse in on themselves, making the machine angry and increasing the time of my donation exponentially. More warm blankets, more encouragement to squeeze my sponge ball harder and faster. The idea there is to increase blood flow, thereby satisfying the machine’s hunger.
Houston, We Have A Problem:
“Quite suddenly, I felt “off”; the lights in the hospital room started to dim; I grew clammy. I began to panic.”
Three hours in — ok it was only 40 minutes — something went south. Quite suddenly, I felt “off”; the lights in the hospital room started to dim; I grew clammy. I began to panic. I know these symptoms. A blackout was on the horizon and sometimes that comes with somewhat embarrassing repercussions. And just like that, my donation mission was aborted. A team of professionals flocked around me: ice packs were hurled on my neck and belly to counteract the heated blankets, the needle and tourniquet were ripped away, and a “throw-up” basin was placed on my lap — just in case.
After a period of recovery, for both myself and my son, (he was quite shaken by the hullabaloo that surrounded his mother while he was helplessly strapped down) we were allowed to go home.
As I said, not the first time a near-blackout has ended an endeavor early for me. I’m very sorry I wasn’t able to complete the donation of much-needed platelets, for the good of my community. But I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that there’s a part of me that’s a little smugly happy that the sad excuse I’ve been lamely using for years not to donate … turns out to be a really good and actually valid one.
But at least now I can say with confidence that he’s neither paying for sex nor an illegal IV drug-user. In general, I don’t recommend this as a way to find out about your kid’s proclivities or illicit activities. Maybe just ask them?