My Experience as a Visually Impaired Blood Donor

By Melody E. Holloway

I have donated whole blood, platelets, and plasma since I was seventeen. I am now thirty-five. I wanted to share my experience to show anyone can donate no matter what your disability as long as you are healthy and eligible.

I will describe the donation process and the different components of blood. When you go to the donor center, you scan your blood donor card or photo ID. You are asked a series of questions about your health history including sexual history, HIV exposure, Hepatitis exposure, history of other STDs, Malaria risk, medications, travel history, organ and tissue transplant history, and whether you have had bone or skin grafts or been exposed to some who had a Smallpox vaccine. You are also asked if you have had any vaccines in the past eight weeks or have donated platelets, plasma, or power red in the past eight weeks. You are asked if you have a heart or lung condition which I have to say yes too. If your doctor clears you, your vitals are okay, and you do not use oxygen, you are eligible. Your blood pressure, pulse, and temperature are checked. You receive a finger stick to test your hemoglobin or iron level. It has to be at least 12.5. You have to weigh at least 110 LB for whole blood, platelets, or plasma, and 150 LB to give a unit of power red which is red blood cells. Both your arms are checked, your arm is cleaned, and a rather large needle is stuck in a vein.

A whole blood donation can take ten to twenty minutes. Platelet, plasma, and power red donations take two to three hours because a machine spins your blood and returns the components you are not donating back in to your body. Plasma is the clear liquid part of our blood. Platelets are sticky proteins that cause our blood to clot or coagulate. This means stop bleeding. Platelets rush to the sight of a wound to clot blood. Red blood cells carry oxygen to our bodies through our blood. White cells fight infection. Blood and blood products can be used for a variety of injuries and illnesses. People need transfusions for many different reasons. Cancer patients, Hemophiliacs, burn victims, accident victims, victims of crime, people who are anemic, new mothers, women who have miscarried, and patients undergoing any type of surgery can all need blood at some point. I had a transfusion shortly after I was born three months premature. I have always wanted to give back.

The first time I donated, I was told I was the first blind person that particular center had. They had hearing impaired donors, but not visually impaired. Ironically, my hearing is now starting to go. I am a volunteer donor for the American Red Cross. I do not receive compensation. The process can be painful and you feel crummy for a couple days, but to me it is worth someone going home to their family. I just became a convalescent plasma donor for Covid-19 yesterday. I survived it and my blood is enriched with antibodies to boost someone’s immune system who may have a tough time fighting this demonic virus. I developed a mild hematoma which is a bruise that forms a blood filled sac under the skin. My arm fell beside me and was in an awkward position. The staff laid my bed back, ripped my mask off, applied cold cloths to my forehead and neck, and held apple juice to my lips. I felt extremely hot for a few minutes as well as weak and nauseated. This happened because I could not receive the last return of my blood cells. The staff had to take the needle out of my arm prematurely due to the pain and severity of the bruise. I lost some plasma and blood cells which cannot be used. A special form had to be filled out. I still successfully gave a double unit of platelets and convalescent plasma. It is ideal to donate all components except whole blood via two arms. One vein gives and a vein in your other arm receives the return. I have to use one arm because I only have one reliable vein.

After your donation, you are given snacks and drinks to rehydrate and bring your glucose level back up. You should rest and drink extra fluids for a few days afterword.

I have given whole blood forty-one times. This equals five gallons plus one pint. One unit equals one pint. Eight pints equal one gallon. I have also now donated four or five double units of platelets and plasma. I usually feel worse giving whole blood even though it takes less time because we do not receive anything back. I am also a registered organ and tissue donor. I am not one to toot my own horn, I simply write this to inform. Thank you and be safe ACB friends!

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