That’s right… time to give blood again. The snowtime photographs will have to wait for another day, so my apologies if you have been anxiously awaiting them. I promise they will be in the next post….unless something else comes up!
Back in Olympia I was a regular blood donor and I haven’t been opposed to donating blood here. A couple months ago, a co-teacher told me of a blood drive at a local church. Unfortunately, that’s when I had some kind of lingering illness and I didn’t want to risk any more. So I passed, looking forward to the next one.
About a week ago, I saw the flier posted on the teachers’ room notice board. Conveniently, the blood drive would take place at school, and it was today. But I still had some hesitations. My plan was to casually show up at the location, and if a quick visual satisfied me, and everything felt right, I would do it. And I hoped one of my students would be around to help me do the paperwork.
The donation center was open from 2-5pm and my last class ended at 2:!5. I brought my water bottle with me today, and finished two bottles throughout the early afternoon. I ate breakfast and snacked, all before 11am, so I figured I better eat something else. I stopped by the “sandwich counter” at school and paid 150 ft. for their last sandwich, a paprika salami, lettuce, and butter sandwich on a sub roll. Then I wandered toward Room 8, the site of the blood-goings-on. I admit, to any of you students who may be reading this, that I wasn’t really looking at class photos as I passed back and forth and back and forth again, outside the room. I was looking around at all of the stations, beds, tables, etc. to make sure it looked organized, sanitary, dare I say modern enough. I was sort of stalling, hoping a student would invite me in…since the room was inhabited by about 6-8 nursing staff, and several students casually lounging around on the side. A couple non-English-speaking teachers were waiting in line, too. Thank you Niki, Benjamin, and Erika for helping me with everything.
From the time I stepped in the room, each action, each observation was immediately contrasted with what would happen at the blood center in Olympia. And it was mostly similar:
Olympia, part 1: I show ID to the registrar, and am handed a booklet to read and a health questionnaire to fill out. When finished, I hand it back and after a short wait am called back to a technician’s office. He reviews my responses and asks follow-up questions. In particular, have I been/visited/lived outside the US…and where…and for how long…and how long ago? I am handed a “baby heel warmer” because my fingers are usually so cold. He pricks my finger to measure my hematocrit, uses the homeglobin vs. weight chart to determine my iron % and comments about how my iron is nicely very high. Then a blood pressure check (120/80 -ish) and pulse (60-ish) and we’re off to the donation section where I lie on the reclining bed.
Hungary, part 1: Erika offers to be my translator and we both fill out a very official form consenting to that fact (I guess it’s necessary, especially because she has to ask me personal questions and I have to answer her). At station #1, we give my ID and health card to the woman who enters info into the computer. She gives me the questionnaire, and she has to watch me X the answers to my first three questions before allowing me to sit off to the side. I am told that one of them is something like, “Do you consent to your blood being given to sick and injured people?” Of course! The nurse hands me a small bottle of water and a package containing a single wafer cookie. Off to the side, Erika reads each of the questions to me and I answer them. We walk to station #2 where we hand the paperwork over. The nurse pricks my finger for the hematocrit, but first puts some blood on a card with two distinct circular reagent areas. I am told this is to type my blood(?) So I tell them I am O+, and apparently I still am! The nurse asks my weight and writes it down, but she doesn’t use a hemoglobin vs. weight table to measure hematocrit. She just reads the meter at 150mg, and says that one just needs to have 125mg/dl or higher to donate. And be 18 (16 in the US) and weight 50kg (same as US). I take my paperwork and I’m off to station #3. Erika tells me to go behind the white curtain for a medical test, and I realize it is just where another nurse will ask about my allergies, medications, recent and illnesses. When she asks how I am feeling, I say I am great but that the room is really warm. Erika relays my (friendly) comment that Hungarian buildings seem to have the thermostat set a good 5-10 degrees (F) warmer than in the US….then the nurse feels my forehead and wants me to lift up my shirt to check my heart with her stethoscope. She asks if I’m nervous, and I say I am warm, but not nervous. She takes my blood pressure, which is 150/80…to which I respond, “Yes, I am obviously nervous.” And the thought of passing out because of donating blood in a really warm room did cross my mind. My pulse was fast, too. But they didn’t seem to mind, other than confirming that I had been drinking water all day and eating meals. Check! (Thank you salami sandwich). At station #4, another nurse asks if I have any questions, makes me repeat my name, hands me a 500 ft. grocery store voucher (as payment?) and I tell her I want to use my right arm for the donation. Then it is off to the reclining bed (chair)!
Olympia, part 2: I sit on the bed, rest my arm on the armrest and the technician reminds me to squeeze the ball in my fist every so often. They tell me to let them know if I start to feel dizzy or feel tingling in my lips. I watch the needle injection, since I have no concerns about needles or blood. Once it’s in, I flip through a newsletter or some other reading material with my other hand for about 10 minutes. Once they have a pint, they remove the needle, place a cotton swab over the spot, and tell me to raise my arm for a minute or so. Then they cover it with a bandage.
Hungary, part 2: I sit on the bed, actually more of a reclining chair. My legs hang off, and I ask Erika and Ben to raise the built-in pillow. The squeeze ball is placed in my palm and in goes the needle. I am told to let them know if I feel dizzy, sick, or if my fingertips are numb. After a few seconds, after the blood has begun flowing, I am asked if “the needle is in the right place.” After I say, “uh,” she clarifies, “Does it hurt at all?” Nope. I actually didn’t even feel it go in. It was as painless as when my dad draws my blood. For a few minutes I talk to the students, and the nurse reminds me that I haven’t been squeezing the ball (whoops). I open my water bottle to have a sip, but am told that I can’t have water while giving blood (in case I start to feel sick). In what seems like five minutes, the blood pouch is full. I don’t feel the needle being removed either, though I watch the whole process. I am instructed to hold the cotton swab over the needle site, but as I raise my arm up, I am corrected. Erika tells the nurse that it’s what I am used to doing in the US.
Olympia, part 3: A friendly volunteer mans the lunch table and when I arrive, she asks if I would like juice, coffee, water, and offers me an unending selection of cookies, chips, pretzels. We sit and have small talk, as I am not allowed to leave for 20 minutes, so they can monitor my alertness.
Hungary, part 3: The cotton swab is covered by a piece of tape, and I am told to keep drinking a lot for the rest of the day. I am thanked and told I am done. I get off the bed and walk over to a chair on the side. I munch on my single wafer cookie and walk out the door as soon as I feel like it.
Overall, there were some clear differences in procedures but they were pretty minor. It was a comfortable experience—by no means a worse experience than the first time I visited the Olympia blood center (language barrier notwithstanding).
As I left the room, I was thinking to myself that the blood draw sure was quick. As I look at the next person giving a donation, the blood bag seems smaller than the ones in the US (close to a pint). It must have been a smaller bag. I asked a student who donated just before me, and she told me it is probably a half-liter. But that’s bigger than a pint… there’s no way. Oh well.