Otterman's Blood Donations
06 May 2015
From my blog, Otterman's Speaks...
Blog posts, 2008- (Wordpress) (All the posts in category: blood)
Blog posts, 2007-2003 (Samizdat)
Blog posts by other Singaporeans
In the news, 2004
My blood donation experience
Inspiring names on the wall
I was fascinated as a kid when I saw my father donate blood. What a neat way to help people! And they really need it! On the walls, I read with admiration the names of those who donated 50 or 100 times. Champion donors! They were an inspiration. "I want to be like them", I thought to myself.
Determined to begin once I was old enough, I finally turned 18 but was in the army. Too exhausted on weekends initially, it was more than 6 months before I went for my first session, sometime in August 1985.
Just an hour every 3 months
I used to spend slightly less than an hour per session, screening, questions, preparation, blood flow, held back for 10 minutes as they were sure you were okay, and milo and biscuits (now its a soya sandwich and drink) before you go. I used to measure the time it took for 430ml of my blood to reach the bag by the side of the bed and my best times were about 3 minutes, if I recall correctly.
Scared of infection? The whole setup is really neat - entirely disposable, one-time use only, so you can rest easy.
Big veins, so platelereisis
A core group of nurses at the National Blood Centre recognise individual regular donors by name or by what they do ("you the one always in the forest right?"). In the 90's, they asked me to donate platelets, as I was one of the regulars and had 'good veins'.
However my platelet counts were too low and they stopped the second donation halfway through the session. I was a little upset. Platelets have a shelf life of only five days and thus are relatively rare. Platelets are used by leukemia patients and I had just been looking at the obituary page of a 12-year old. But the nurse said the donations would strip away what I needed for myself, hence they stopped the donation. My counts, rather unfortunately, were just naturally low.
Too much travel so plasmareisis
With low platelet counts and my frequent travels to forests in Asia, they asked me to switch to plasma donations. This meant spending alonger time at the Blood Centre, but it was very relaxing. First few sessions, I had to remember to go to the toilet before the donation started, lese you can be stuck for an hour with no way to visit a toilet! My entire donation session, from registration to tea, now takes just 1 hour.
*On 24th January 2003 I completed my 70th session.* Still a long way off from my heroes on the wall. Hope I stay healthy all the way!
Easier for some - how about you?
Some of us can do this more easily than others. When I crashed my bike recently at Ubin, and my elbow was bleeding. A friend looked at my thick red blood already clotting, in admiration - she is anaemic, and says her blood looks like 'bandung' - pink and watery!
She was anaemic since childhood, but through sheer determination and adjustment of diet, and after a few rejections, eventually made make her tenth blood donation in late 2002! What an achievement! I am impressed everytime I recall this.
I used to go for rugby training after donation sessions in the late 80's (don't tell the nurses or there'll be hell to pay). I was cautious, expecting to faint at any moment. Hardly the case! For me at least, 430ml of whole blood was not much of a sacrifice! "Milk us for more!" we once jubilantly asked the nurses. They shook their heads and smiled - they have safety margins they can never compromise.
But despite all that, I was unable to donate platelets regularly - and my anaemic friend has managed to make 10 whole blood donations! She increases her natural iron intake until her blood count gets high enough, then tries. She gets rejected roughly at a rate off 3:1!
Other friends have tried too but not all are successful: some were too light (less than 45kg), others turned out to be carriers off Hepatitis, some were on medication, some of the ladies went at the wrong time of the month when blood counts were too low. And some others have collapsing veins or were travelling in risk-areas. But all of them not for want of trying!
Go down and try it out. Most are able. There's no way to tell.
Remember, only 1-2% off Singaporeans are donors. About 30% of these are women.
Every time you make a donation, it's well appreciated and you'd have helped to save a life. Isn't that nice?
Otterman, 16 Oct 2002.