How Am I Unlike a Turnip?

Well, for starters, you can get blood from me.   In fact, I give the stuff away fairly often.

I’m a big proponent of donating blood.   Giving blood is a simple & very charitable gesture; a single pint of blood given by a donor can help to save the lives of as many as three people.   But Shelly Tucker over at This Eclectic Life reminded me of another great reason to give blood…

Before any blood is collected, you must first complete a brief medical history questionnaire.   It’s also at this time that a mini-physical is performed, during which your blood pressure, pulse, temperature, and your hematocrit (the number of red cells in your blood) level are checked to ensure that you’re a eligible candidate.   And of course, after your blood is drawn, it’s thoroughly screened for diseases.   During these pre- and post-donation steps, sometimes conditions you were previously unaware of, like high blood pressure, for example, can turn up.   In Shelly’s case, she was shocked to learn that her blood tested positive for Hepatitis C antibodies, though (thankfully!) negative for the virus itself.   While this is certainly not news she would’ve wanted to hear, she now knows to alert her doctor to keep a close watch out for liver damage during future checkups.

Similarly — although much less seriously — I was alerted to an unknown problem when I went to give blood earlier this year.   I was turned away because of a low red blood cell count that was revealed during the pre-donation mini-physical.   I promptly made an appointment with Dr. Perlman for a follow-up on this and the initial bloodwork indicated internal bleeding.   After a number of tests and visits with Dr. Perlman and my bariatric surgeon Dr. Davenport, I was able to breathe a deep sigh of relief — they determined that I’ve developed pernicious anemia, caused by serious vitamin B12 & iron deficiencies due to malabsorption.   This type of anemia is readily treatable; I’ve been on corrective supplements for over 2 months now and have since been able to donate blood again.

Please note:   Blood donation screening tests are not diagnostic and are no substitute for routine annual physicals!   For your own sake as well as that of potential recipients, please don’t use blood donation for the purpose of screening!   If you suspect that there’s a problem, please see your doctor first!

This isn’t necessarily easy for everyone, of course.   Giving blood can cause queasiness & cold sweats and just the needle-stick alone is quite difficult for some people to tolerate.   However, you can take comfort in knowing that giving blood not only helps others but may also benefit you as well.   In fact, it stimulates the generation of red blood cells and there’s some evidence that suggests that giving blood may lower cholesterol and reduce the risk of heart disease.

So, what’s your take on this?   Do you donate blood?