That was just one question among many on the questionnaire I filled out before donating blood to the Red Cross at Alameda Hospital recently. Also included were a number of questions related to overseas travel and drug and sex habits aimed at screening out potential transmission of AIDS, hepatitis and other odd blood-borne diseases like Creutzfeldt-Jakob.
I had never donated blood until a couple of years ago and this was only my third time. The recent telephone pitch from Red Cross mentioned that my blood type (B-) is rare and locally in short supply, so trotting on down to donate was a little self-serving, but it’s really just doing the right thing. Maybe a little good karma, too.
The first time I donated blood I scheduled an acupuncture treatment beforehand. I usually get acupuncture for general malaise, to get a systemic boost when my energy is low, as opposed to treating a specific malady. Maybe the whole thing was some kind of placebo effect, but I felt terrific for a couple days after this double procedure.
My theory is that dumping old blood and forcing the body to crank up production can only be good for one's energy level and might even stimulate the immune system.
Brief research on the Internet does not confirm this, but in healthy persons the immune system is not supposed to be weakened by donating whole blood or plasma, so it does no harm. However, it’s not hard to imagine why the old practice of “leeching” the seriously ill backfired and resulted in worsening conditions, including death. George Washington was probably bled to death from an illness he otherwise would have recovered from. But I digress.
My second donation didn’t go so well. Having drunk too much coffee and eaten too little, I found myself swooning a minute or two into the process and had to be laid out flat, my forehead swabbed with a damp towel to prevent me from passing out. The only feeling more disconcerting is sea sickness.
Before this last donation I had my usual two cups of morning Joe, but followed that with a few glasses of grapefruit juice and water during the morning before the 1 p.m. appointment. All went well. In fact, the phlebotomist remarked at the rapid rate at which I topped off the donation bag, something like four minutes,fifteen seconds, about twice as quickly as average. That was great because I had somewhere else to be.
I was sharing my theory about blood donation making one feel robust with my neighbor, who is an adventure travel agent. He also happens to be British by birth. He joked that he is not really a preferred blood donor because he has spent too much time exploring the Congo and other parts of West Africa, which are considered areas of high risk. He also comes from Europe, where bovine mental health is a lingering concern. The restrictions on donating are actually based on timelines, so I’m sure his blood is probably safe. That is, unless he has eaten a hamburger recently here in our home state.