Friday, April 26, 2013

Track Marks

Thousands of candles can be lighted from a single candle, 
and the life of the candle will not be shortened. 
Happiness never decreases by being shared. 
~ The Buddha 

I've shared on my Facebook page the personal commitment I've made in being a regular blood donor.  Emphasis on regular.  My motivation to periodically donate in the past was driven by the fact that I didn't have to make much effort other than take the elevator to the conference room area where a company I was working for was having a drive and it was an easy recess from the job, masked in a humanitarian contribution that satisfied my ego with some bragging rights that in some delusional way made me a better person.

I donate now, in memory of Boomer.  Boomer received in excess of 16 transfusions in the 36 hours he was in the hospital before he died.  I say "in excess" because I stopped keeping track at 16. I don't need to tell you how that's a whole lotta blood.  Donating is a great way to give  - - give back and I plead for everyone who can to please do - - eligibility for whole blood donation is every 56 days, assuming an individual passes the health questionnaire and minimum stat levels.  My commitment is strong and permanent, I'm only bummed I can't donate more often - - whole blood anyway.

During my last visit to the blood center, 56 days ago, the nurse(s) began telling me about platelet and plasma donations; eligibility is every 8 days or 4 weeks respectively.   Hmm, I'm listening.  This is very satisfying, the frequency that is.  Then the conversation went further - - platelet and plasma is often in greater need, the "shelf" life is longer than that of whole blood, and for patient recipients, their health-improvement chances increase dramatically when the supply comes from a single donor.  I can feel my heart pounding with my desire growing the more we talked, the more I learned, the more I remembered.

Boomer wasn't the recipient of just whole blood.  He got the trifecta of transfusions:  blood, platelets and plasma.  All happening simultaneously and around the clock.  His blood too thin, no longer able to clot, and he was internally bleeding as a direct result of decades of heavy, dependent drinking (read Reality, Bowing and All too Familiar).   The aggressive transfusions my beloved husband received started out as the effort to save his life.  Within 14 hours of the first one, the priority changed - - keep Boomer alive so family can get there.

The third time the ICU doctor asked me about family arrivals - - who, when and where from - - my light bulb amped to 100 watts in understanding exactly what the phenomenal team was doing without anyone actually saying the words.  They were keeping Boomer alive.  At my first break, I made a b-line to the blood center to make a donation.   My intuitive knowledge was ratified a few hours later by the 5-minute, in-your-face conversation with the hematologist, "Hello, I'm Dr. Smith, this is only time you'll see me."  His description of what was happening inside Boomer's body, and the harsh reality of the situation was clear, thorough, and impressively articulated in laymen terms.  There wasn't a single thing he said that I did not understand. 

As I checked in at the blood center desk, I hear "Hi Shannon" coming from the nurses down the hall in the donation area.  My heart warms - - I'm officially a regular donor.  Today I also became a platelet donor.  And will be going forward (I'd do plasma too, but the center at this time, only does blood & platelets).  Boomer needed these platelets.  He needed them in order for his sons to arrive. Without those platelets, I would have been making very different kinds of phone calls. And the pain family members might have experienced - - well, there's no need to go there.  Their pain is great enough already, and not something I am personally qualified to speak to.  I am qualified to speak to the fact, that it was out of the kindness, and generosity of someone else's donation that made Boomer's transfusions possible.  It's up to me to help make that possible for someone else - - because I choose to, and it's my small way of expressing gratitude and saying, "Thank you."   I know Boomer approves too (read Mood Ring) .

A downside to becoming a frequent platelet donor is the likelihood you'll develop track marks on your arm from the needles.  The donation can last up to 2 hours, that's a long time to have a needle sit in your arm, and do it regularly at that.  I'm not worried.  In fact, I'm looking forward to it - - call it an "in honor of" tattoo of sorts.

As nurse Joan pricked my left middle finger to test my iron levels (I'm always a low-iron risk) she didn't sound optimistic.  I was a tad low.  So get this crazy thing..."Maybe it's the machine,"  she says, "We typically aren't suppose to run a second test, but we really need platelets. Let's try again."  We couldn't use the left finger again because I had already clotted, so we did the right side.  Behold!  Nice spike to the result, and we're good to go.  There's no question in my mind that my secret agent man (read Left Right) was working at full throttle yet again to show his support. I also know, if he were here, we'd be making donations together and comparing our track marks.

Only a life lived for others is a life worthwhile.
~ Albert Einstein



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