First-time blood donation

July 24, 2020

Two weeks ago, I donated blood to the Red Cross for the first time. The decision was pretty abrupt TBH; I downloaded the app and made an appointment using my iPhone on a random Friday evening. Tim glanced up from his card game with our friend Matt to ask what I was doing, to which I replied, “signing up to give blood.”

I’d been feeling intrinsic pressure to donate because I was under the impression that I had precious O-negative “universal-donor” blood. I’m not sure where this personal health note originated, but it had been implanted in my mind and regarded as truth until I checked the Red Cross donor app after my donation:

Turns out it’s LITERALLY in my blood to be obnoxiously optimistic. Dang.

Giving blood, even amidst a pandemic, was straightforward. The whole process took an hour, and that’s primarily because I was chit-chatting a lot with the phlebotomist Elisa, and the nurse. They were great. One underrated reason to love these health care professionals (HCP) is that they compliment you in ways many don’t.

HCP: You have BEAUTIFUL veins!

Me: Awe, shucks!

Or, my personal favorite:

HCP: Your heart rate is very low- you must exercise pretty regularly!

Thanks, running.

Which reminds me – running has unfortunately taken a hit following the donation.

Losing one pint of blood for the donation, plus additional vials for the complementary COVID19 antibody test, has meant I have significantly less RBC’s circulating. I may have registered to give blood with serum hemoglobin levels of 14.5 g/dL (as a vegetarian😉!), but I have felt a bit “off” in the days following the donation. I’ve slept-in almost every day since, and my runs have been noticeably more challenging. It’s really fascinating though – I’m astonished by the impact that losing only 10% of my blood volume has had on my constitution and peppiness.

Perhaps I should have taken the admonitions to refrain from exercise a bit more seriously?  nah.

As a child of the 21st century – I obviously Googled my experience immediately. I learned that the sluggishness I feel on runs will pass; I expect to feel up to workouts again this week or next! I also expect to give blood in September, since RBC’s need 120 days to regenerate!

I’m looking forward to running some workouts again. I’m not training for anything per-se, but I think workouts are fun (…type II fun), and I like how strong and confident I can feel during them. I want to build up some strength and confidence as I enter my 4th year of graduate school in August & start the new academic year.

One last thing: The Red Cross website has a really awesome site with interactive graphics and fun facts about different blood types and info about donations. I pulled some of tid-bits for those of you who don’t want to venture off platform:

  • Blood types are determined by different sugar and protein molecules on your red blood cells (RBCs)
  • The “+” and “-” refer to the presence or absence of protein called the Rh factor.
  • The rarest blood type is type AB-
  • The most common blood type is O+
  • About 9% of the population has B+ blood (like me!), but the site can break it down further to compare how it relates to the whole U.S. population:
Photo credit: Red Cross
  • The universal RBC donor has type O – blood
  • The universal plasma donor has type AB blood
  • Red cells can be stored for up to 42 days.
  • For a short time, the Red Cross is testing all blood donations for the presence of COVID19 antibodies — this is “the antibody test.” Learn more.
    1. I am negative.
  • You can track what happens to your donated blood after the donation using the app or this website!
  • The implication that blood type A+ is prognostic for COVID19 has recently been dispelled by researchers at HMS in Boston. If you are curious about this you can venture off platform by clicking the hyperlinks:
    1. You can read the original article on pubmed.
    2. You can read the press-release on the study, too.

“Starve the mosquitoes; give blood.” – Anonymous

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Toxicologist & marathon runner