Wednesday, 16 March 2022

I nearly dropped like a stone

 I've been a bit behind on my blood donation schedule. The George blood donation centre is open on Wednesdays until late so I headed there after work to give a pint.

It usually takes longer to complete the questionaire, have the iron-level finger prick and then blood pressure taken than it does to fill a bag. My actual donation time is 4:30 to 6:00. Boom. Just like that.

Today was different.

Ahead of me was a newbie and she was sitting in the chair next to me. She did good. I was going to give her my 'Once-off donations don't count - you have to come back again and again' lecture, but I held back. Instead I sat back nice and comfy in the La-z-boy style chairs.

After a few minutes the nurse came to me, checked my details and got the bags ready. I had a feeling that she was the setup one and that another would do the actual jab. She then came back and did the jab, which was fine but the angle of the tube made the needle pull against the skin where it went into my arm. A bit uncomfortable. I figured I'd handle it for the next few minutes but while she was filling the little bag and vials (used for various tests) it got more uncomfortable. 

She then switched the tubes over from the one that fills the vials to the one that fills the big bag.

Nothing happened.

She checked the pipes, wiggled the connection. Nothing.

She then checked the needle, withdrawing it slightly. Blood started to flow again. I asked he to re-tape the tube at a better angle to relieve the niggle, which she did. While doing this the machine started to beep that the blood flow into the bag was too slow.

Me? Too slow? Never! 

Naughty blood drop guy in the WCBS donation campaign. The campaign is all about this guy skipping a work out, work meeting or homework to go off to donate blood.

There was another blockage. Thinking that the needle was now in too shallow, she moved it deeper into the vein (a super, fabulous vein) and the flow picked up again. And then it stopped. She adjusted it outwards more. It flowed and then stopped again.

She then called another nurse to come check this out.

She had asked me twice in this process - a period of probably no more than 2-3 minutes - whether I was Ok. And I had been.

But then, I suddenly started to feel queasy. That limbo between being ok and being unconscious when colours dim, sounds distort and you don't think so good.

The other nurse was almost with me and I told 'my' one, as she turned to move away, "I'm feeling really queasy".

I'm not sure how it all went down but in an instant there was a guy to my right giving me a piece of cotton wool with something smelly on it (smelling salts?) and he told me to sniff it. He (or someone else) told me to cough (a few times). And breathe. And in these 30-seconds the needle was out and a big fan was in front of me. I don't remember the fan being brought forward.

Did I hear someone say "You're back with us"? 

If I did pass out, I don't think it was for more than a second or two. 

It's a good thing that I was sitting in the comfy chair because if I was standing I would have dropped like a stone.

I've done a few over 60 donations over a period of almost 30 years* and this is my first experience of this happening to me at a blood donation. 

* My average is not two donations a year. I missed about eight years of donations with lots of travel and being regularly in malaria areas. At the age of 16, I did my first donation at my high school's mobile donor clinic, which visited us each term.

But, this is not the first time that this has happened to me overall.

In my postgrad years at university, I would volunteer for the physiology postgrad experiments. 

There was this one where I was to ride a stationary bike and they would draw blood at intervals as the intensity increased.

I was ready and on the bike. Someone put one of those butterfly needles into my left arm. This would allow them to attach vials to the tube to draw blood without disturbing me and without causing me any discomfort other than the initial needle prick to insert the needle. Easy.

I can't exactly remember but I recall helping the lady to tape down the tube. There was something not right and the taping had to be redone. Like today, I was intently focused on the task, watching what was going on and trying to assist using my right hand.

Whatever it was, the world went shades of grey and sounds got distorted like I was in a fishbowl. I told them that I wasn't feeling well. I got off the bike to sit on the floor. One of them suggested I sit on a nearby seat. I recall being helped off the ground and guided between two people. And then I wasn't. I came to in seconds, lying on my back on the floor, looking up and seeing panicked people running around. I spoke to them to tell them I was fine and a few minutes later I was really fine - walking and talking again. 

Needless to say, they didn't continue the experiment on me even though I was willing. The poor student was so shaken.

This is all so strange for me because even then I'd been a regular blood donor for at least six years. I'm another 20-odd years down the line. I've never had needle phobias, vaccinations are barely a beep on my radar, and I'm generally drawn to wounds, blood and any other medical issues. I'm the person they call at the factory if someone has an injury that needs cleaning and bandaging. I take out stitches from my pets, other people and myself. Squeamish, I am not.

That said, it does look like I have a trigger. Two similar situations around 24-years apart. The same reaction. So silly. I now know that I cannot assist other people to do medical things to me. Yes, that means that if if something happens to me in the middle of nowhere, I'm likely to pass out if I try to assist someone to stitch my wounds or take out my appendix. 

Thankfully, you're in luck if something happens to you. I'll be the first one on the scene to get a piece of the action.

Even though I barely made a 1/4 bag today, I can only make another donation in another 50-odd days. I've still got enough time to do 3-4 donations this year to maintain my regular donor status.

No comments: