Thursday, November 24, 2011

NaBloPoMo Day 24: Thankful and Platelets

A couple of months ago, after having worked several weekends in a row, I cut work short on a Sunday and drove up PCH to Oxnard. I rolled down the windows, turned up the radio, and made the most of SoCal living. I walked around a semi-private beach in Oxnard, watched some surfers, watched waves and let my mind wander. It was a really nice break. On the way home, I caught the sunset around Malibu, I just had to stop on the side of the road and snap a pic. PCH is really good for that. I'm reminded today of this and all the other things to be thankful in my life.

I went this morning to the American Red Cross donor center in Pasadena to donate platelets. I donated a couple of weeks ago, and was told I could donate again after two weeks and they're open Thanksgiving, so I signed up. I thought wow, they must really need platelets if they're going to be open on Thanksgiving Day (and Christmas Day and New Year's Day also).

Unfortunately I couldn't donate today because the hemoglobin level in my blood was too low. This happens to me all the time, actually. Part of the screening procedure includes a little pinprick to a finger to draw a little bit of blood that gets tested. You can fail once and get one re-test and if you pass on the re-test, you can still donate (assuming other criteria are met). There hasn't been a time in the last several years I've donated whole blood or platelets that I wasn't tested twice.

So the minimum hemoglobin level is 12.5 g/dL (grams per deciliter?). The crazy thing is, it's the same threshold for both men and women, even though women typically have lower hemoglobin levels.

I know I have low hemoglobin levels. I usually test right around 12.3 and 12.7. That doesn't mean I'm anemic, though. I think if you're over 11.0 g/dL, you're not anemic. So I'm well safe in terms of that. I recently had a physical and my doctor confirmed that I'm not anemic, that I'm healthy overall. She did say that I don't have much iron reserve, and that my red blood cells are small. But she said that's really no problem so long as I maintain my iron intake.

I take between 15 to 18 mg of iron daily, both through food (spinach, lentils, seaweed, etc.) and supplements. That's 100% of the daily value but I guess I can't retain much, like my doctor says.

So, after I was turned away today, I wrote in to the American Red Cross website and asked them to lower the minimum hemoglobin level for women to 12.0 g/dL or, barring that, whether they could provide me with a waiver for the threshold, provided I sign a release of liability if ever I feel ill after donating (I'm sure I won't, even if I donate with 12.0 g/dL).

I'm surprised that the Red Cross hadn't thought about this type of distinction for eligibility, given that the need for blood donations is so great. I've been donating blood since I was a senior in high school and really hope I can continue to do so without being humiliated by the Red Cross staff as I was today.

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