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Oh no, not… The Machine!

I spent a substantial part of last Friday attached to a machine as it whirred and vibrated angrily at me. Out of my own choice I have to say. I have become to be a platelet donor and I now have an awful lot more sympathy for those that have to go through dialysis as it is much the same type of machine.
Platelets are what your blood needs to clot, and there are plenty of people that low platelet counts due to inherent or developed conditions. They are in serious danger from excessive bleeding. You can get platelets from donated blood but it is more efficient to take them directly from a donor. I was told that another key reason for taking them directly is so the eventual recipient is exposed to fluid from one other individual rather than several, as in the case of platelets from donated blood.
I’ve given blood since university and kept it up because I found out that my blood – I’m a universal donor, O Negative – tended to go for emergency cases and babies. So I was unsure about giving that up when they asked me to be tested to see if I was suitable. You cannot do both blood donation and platelets. Well, I was tested. Apparently my platelet level is high enough and I have “adequate” veins. The last bit might seem odd but you need to have veins that are easy to find and big enough to allow the machine to suck blood out and put most of it back in on a cycle.
So I braved Luton to go and be attached to a machine for an hour and a half. The needle goes in and the blood goes out and is centrifuged to remove the platelets that collect in a bag. The rest of your blood is mixed with an anticoagulant and pumped back in. And repeat. If the pressure goes too low the machine buzzes angrily at you to get pumping with whatever soft item you have in your hand to get the pressure back up.
The machine itself is delightfully macabre. It seems to have more tubes and holding areas for liquid than what seems absolutely necessary, with blood, clear and yellow liquids flowing through them. For the record a bag of platelets looks a little like a bag of thick orange squash.
Together with the angry buzzing and flashy lights it has a bit of a nightmare quality and I did feel a little as though I was in a late 1970s science fiction movie, something like Demon Seed or Phase IV.
It was not painful – as such – although moving my arm afterwards was excruciating. Having held it still for so long it was determined to protest violently.
So why bother? I mean it hurt and it took hours out of my day.
Well, first the tea was good and the nurses talk to you all the time to stop you getting bored, and I came away with a bag containing sandwiches, two Jacobs Club biscuits and some prawn cocktail crisps.
More seriously, I have been trying to understand if I do this out of duty (read: guilt) or because I actually want to. I think it is a bit of both, but the driving principle for me is this. In the end the cost to me is tiny. A little bit of time and discomfort but not even the light headedness you sometimes get with blood donation. The people who will get the platelets need them to stay alive. I find it difficult to say no to that equation, especially as it seems that in this case I am in a minority in being able to give at all.
I personally see it as my responsibility to make use of this gift, as with any other I might possess (the others are well hidden by the way, but I keep looking). So if my contributions are up to scratch, then I’ll continue to submit to the needle.

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