New York Blood Center: I’m sorry but not all that sorry

I’ve been donating blood and blood-like substances since I was sixteen. The allure of getting out of class, being praised for doing a good thing, and getting awesome stuff like a t-shirt and free snacks was too much to resist. Since I was already a big guy by my Junior year, I never had any difficulties giving blood, such as faintness or dizziness like many of my classmates experienced. In fact, I felt nothing whatsoever, which was good because I tended to make the mistake of donating at the end of the day, meaning I would miss the school bus and have to walk all the way home. Apparently you aren’t supposed to do that after giving blood, but I was an exceptionally awesome guy even as an angst-ridden teenager. Pity I didn’t realize it then (well I kind of did, but you know…the angst).

While living in the Twin Cities, I got into frequenting plasma centers. They were even better than whole blood, because they paid you cash. You got $25 for your first visit in a week, and $35 for your second visit. For a young dude at Job Corps who had basically no income but also basically no expenses, this was huge. My weekend stops at the bank to deposit what I thought to be huge bundles of cash became one of my favorite things to do, along with wandering aimlessly to the malls and reading books without paying for them.

So when I moved to New York, it was pretty much a given that I would continue letting sassy people with needles extract vital fluids from me. I couldn’t find any plasma centers that were nearby, so I resigned myself to the less awesome fate of free cookies, chips and juice every eight weeks in exchange for a bag of blood I honestly wasn’t even using. And for the longest time, it was good.

One day, however, I was contacted by the New York Blood Center (because they had both my cell phone number and my work phone number) and asked if I was interested in donating platelets instead. I figured “sure, why not?” and when they mentioned that there were reward points involved that only sweetened the deal.

The first time I donated platelets, I figured out why the give reward points.

The first thing to know is that donating platelets always manages to be more painful than donating whole blood. I don’t know if the needle is just bigger, or if platelet arm pokers are just less adept at the subtle arts of poking arms with needles, but it’s always felt strange and more uncomfortable than I thought it ought to be, like this perpetual sensation that something wasn’t right and was just waiting to go horribly wrong.

Then there is the amount of time. Plasma extraction generally took somewhere between sixty to ninety minutes, because what they do is take whole blood out, run it through a centerfuge, and then pump your blood cells and platelets back in while mixing a saline solution in for good measure (and I suspect because it feels kind of cool). Platelet donation is very similar, except they give you your plasma and blood cells back, and there is no wonderful saline. Platelets always manages to take a good deal longer than even my most arduous plasma trips.

And then there is the amount of time before everything actually begins. You schedule something for, say, 4:00 pm, and you get there at perhaps 3:40 pm. Surely that’ll shave off some time for you! Wrong! You’re going to sit there in the waiting area for a long time no matter what! Because if there is a long line, then everyone needs to go before you. And if there isn’t, well everyone is magically on break and you’re going to wait forever anyways! And then even when you finally get in your stupid reclining chair, you still manage to have to wait another life time for the process to actually begin. Sure they give you a TV to watch, but TV is incredibly boring at the times one would find themselves at a New York Blood Center place.

You’ll notice I used 4:00 pm as an example time. Sadly, that’s not a real one. They aren’t nearly so convenient. The platelet donation times are always horribly inconvenient; either they are during work, or so late in the afternoon that I wouldn’t get home until 7:00 pm at the earliest. Oh sure, they have some times on my days off, but that’s when I’m catching up on sleep after a week of wonderful, wonderful insomnia (that was sarcasm by the way, there is nothing wonderful about insomnia, and my life is frequently a waking nightmare because of it, and if you happen to find me a bit unpleasant at times, I can assure you its because I’m sleep deprived and ready to either break a refrigerator or break down in tears).

So New York Blood Center, I do regret not being able to donate platelets as often as you would like, and I feel kind of bad about the times where I schedule an appointment but don’t make it…but I don’t feel all that bad. Maybe if you’d just let me go back to donating whole blood without throwing a damn fit about it, I’d be more likely to show up.

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One Response to New York Blood Center: I’m sorry but not all that sorry

  1. AJBulldis says:

    Note that since writing this, I have given whole blood, and it was a relatively simple experience, aside from the couple who needed a Hindi translator to assist them and happened to be in front of me in the queue.

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