Thursday, June 16, 2011

Should Runners Give Blood?

I had the privilege of giving life.

No, not THAT "giving life" (I'm a few years away from that, at least).  I'm talking about blood donation, obviously!  I was waaaaay behind on donations (a couple of years) and finally got to a training break where I felt I could safely do so.

I blogged about donating blood as a runner a few years ago.  Partly why I haven't been very regular about this is because I run, which is a shame.  But then I remember that a good deed is a good deed.

Personally, I believe that everyone who is eligible should give blood.  I started doing it in college and go back whenver I feel good and can fit it in.  I barely cross the weight requirement, don't like being pricked (who does?), and don't even have one of those cool "universal" blood types, yet I still do it.  To me, it's like building your karma.  If I or someone I love needed blood, I would HOPE there would be enough blood in the bank to help.  *Stepping off pedastal*

Anyway, it's really not as scary as it seems, if you've never done it before.  First, I'd find a good place to do it.  Blood mobiles are fine and all, but I am picky about the way I am treated and phlebotomists' skills and go straight to the hospital to do it:

Paperwork will be there to greet you, which ensures you are eligible to participate and don't put things in the blood pool that *they* don't want there.  Poor "The Ukrainian," by the nature of his "Ukrainian-ness," could not be with me. :(  The checklists also ensure that you are healthy enough to give on that particular day. 

Then, a nurse will take your temperature to ensure you don't have a fever, take your blood pressure, and then a small blood sample.  If you've ever done one of those mobile cholesterol tests, it's that same lancet-type deal that is really not bad if they do it right. 

My iron measured at 13, temperature a lovely 37 celcius, and blood pressure 100/66.  A quick search on Dr. Google indicated that my levels were kind of barely high enough.  And yes, donating blood causes the body to lose about 250 mg iron.  However, the average iron tablet contains 45 mg (which I usually take in the period after donating).  Knowing that I tend to have low iron levels, I made sure to eat plenty of greens, nuts, and dried fruit in the days prior to my donation and then buy the supplements for afterward.

After what seemed like too long, I got hooked up.  Admittedly, since it had been a while since I've done this, I was pretty nervous.  The needle going in only felt like a pinch, though.  I had to roll and squeeze that object in my hand as I bled.  I hate looking at myself getting stuck, so I just took a picture so I could look at it later.  Too bad the blood bag didn't appear!  It seemed HUGE and FULL of dark blood!  You can see some of that lovely blood in that tube below.  The tube was next to my hand, so I could feel the warmth of my blood going through it... uhhh, ewww?

While I was taking longer to bleed than usual (probably because I was nervous), they brought over this consolation to me -- a basketfull of vending machine goodies!  I definitely bled faster after that!  :$  In total, I think I spent about 10 minutes rolling that thing in my hand and bleedin'.

Afterward, I decided to chomp on the Kashi bar and Fig Newtons.  I was tempted by other things, but I took a Teddy Grahams for the road.  The rules say you have to stick around for at least 15 minutes post-donation, so I munched during that time.

I sipped on this cold cranberry juice (from a choice of apple, orange, or cranberry) prior to my donation and afterward.  Admittedly, I was feeling a little dizzy, but I think it was because I was nervous and hated being still.  When my 15 minutes (not of fame) were up, I got up and left.  The staff thanked me, and my feel-good deed was done!

I got to choose my bandage color, so of course, I picked green.  No removing this sucker for at least 4 hours, but knowing paranoid me, it hangs there longer.  I wanted to snap a pic of my blood bag so bad, but it was whisked away.

Now, according to my Aftercare sheet, my blood volume takes a few hours to return to normal if I don't skip meals and drink plenty of fluids as described.  While I am not proud to be muching on vending machine snacks, I will take some consolation in the fact that I need it... as blood donations "burn" about 600 calories, I hear.

The red blood cells should be back in 3-4 weeks, which is great, because my next marathon training program starts in a month.  Meanwhile, I can resume my normal exercise tomorrow, though I might just rest another day since I have a graduation to attend.

P.S. I did get a coupon for a free pint of ice cream afterwards.  They also offered me yogurt and ice cream as I waited.  Tempting, but not good for my stomach. :P


  1. I have similar feelings about giving blood. I try to make giving blood when healthy and have enough iron (I've been too low in the past) a regular thing. It's personally important for me because my uncle received regular transfusions while ill. I don't know what the blood disease was called, but my father said it was similar to cancer. His children planned a blood drive in his honor after he passed away last summer. I didn't give then because it was too close from my last donation. I donated in January on campus... bad idea. It really threw me off for marathon training and every run was so much more difficult. I wanted to give blood after, but came down with a lousy cold. I'm in a new round of training now, so I'll have to wait.

  2. I always felt that people should give blood. I am O positive, universal donor so I always tried to do it regularly. Before I got preggo I was slightly under the weight or right at the weight requirements and I got really sick after donating so Michael got really mad at me and told me not to go again, he was worried. Then I got preggo. Now that I am past all that I am thinking I should go to the next blood drive. It always feels good to know you are helping someone out there!

  3. I haven't given blood in several years, but at the end of high school and in college I donated regularly. Not sure when I fell out of the habit. I should do it again.

    A related question for you -- after reading my race report from a couple weeks ago, a doctor friend of mine suggested that I take iron supplements leading up to Costa Rica. I started taking them two days ago and got terrible stomach pains. I didn't take it yesterday and no pains. I did a little research and it sounds like that's a pretty common side effect. Have you experienced stomach issues on iron? Found anything to alleviate it?

  4. I always try to give blood when I see a drive nearby, but for at least the past 3 years I've either had too low iron or the wait was over 2 hours before they could even see me. Thanks for donating!