THAT’S ONE MORE AND COUNTING (SAVING LIVES WITH PLATELETS)

Yet another sick child is warded in hospital…..  Most private hospitals,  very,  very expensive as they may be; are usually filled to the brim with people who are not well. Two main reasons for this choice they make. The first is people have a firm belief that they will get excellent treatment with the best doctors possible, attending to them. The other main reason is that there is usually no waiting time for them to be attended to when compared with government hospitals, where the waiting list could even take years before their turn is called. Many could die before receiving crucial treatment.  Besides, these private hospitals have top notch facilities to treat all these ill people. Perhaps, that’s putting it mildly. The hospital hospitality industry is a megabucks business. But I won’t delve into it here. It is noble, all the same.

The continuous spike upwards in the number of dengue cases in the country, for example; especially in Selangor; is a cause for concern and should be addressed and contained soonest possible. New preventive measures have to be found soon,  as the current fogging and keeping areas free from stagnant water is nearly ineffective.

Hospitals are not my usual places to hang out or chill. Perhaps it’s because I never felt comfortable in them. So, why do I donate?  In the late 1980s, I used to hang out a lot with my cousin,  Richard Harding; during weekends and holidays. This one particular weekend I was with him,  he said that he was going to UH (University Hospital) to donate blood for a friend’s father who suffered severe burns from a gas tank explosion in his friend’s home a few days earlier. So, I  said I will go with him; not that I had much of a choice –  he was driving that weekend.

At the Blood bank,  they saw to my cousin and he disappeared to another room, leaving me alone with some people at the front desk. The first thing I was told by the blood bank staff was they needed to check which blood group I belonged to and test if I had the right amount of stuff to donate blood. So,  I said, “ok” with as much enthusiasm as I had as if going to the dentist. A nurse opened my hand, pressed the top of my middle finger until it turned red  and pricked it with something sharp. I jumped with a shocking pain (a pin prick on the tip of your finger is very painful). Needless to say the staff nurse that pricked my finger laughed at my reaction; so did everybody else in the room (there were quite a few people).

I was ushered and shown to a “S” shaped bed. I laid down on it and waited. A short while later, a group of about ten doctors came to my bedside. They all looked pretty young. They were actually interns. One of them took my hand and started searching for the “right” vein. Before long,  they were all trying to claim the vein they found on my hand as “theirs”. This went on for a few minutes until I exclaimed,  “Stop! My hand,  my vein!”; mocking their enthusiasm. They found it a bit difficult to find a good vein for the donation because my hands are fair; at least that was the reason they had given me. They finally found a “usable” vein and punctured a hole in it with the “gun”(a device that is simple to use and takes away the fear of needles,  for those who have the fear like me). Then,  they stuck a needle(I think – didn’t want to look) into the hole and started drawing my blood out. The whole episode took about 15 minutes. I thought to myself,  “that wasn’t so bad, now; was it?” Little did I know this was the start of a lifetime of donations. This was 31st December, 1988.

My second donation was on 29th March 1989. By this time, I thought donating blood was a noble gesture to do. So,  I decided to donate whenever I could. Donating blood was once every three months. I still didn’t like hospitals. I just got others to come along with me, to keep me company during this “ordeal” of having a humongous sized needle stuck into my arm. I literally hated the finger pricking. I always almost jumped out of my seat when the hospital aid(ok ok, not such  a good word) assistants pricked the top of my finger. They had to test for haemoglobin (if the drop of my blood sank to the bottom of the blue liquid(the test),  I was OK for donation. If it didn’t sink,  it meant I was light-headed and couldn’t donate. Just kidding! – I didn’t know how it worked then(still don’t,  now). All I did know was if the drop of blood didn’t sink or was very slow in dropping to the bottom in the blue solution; I couldn’t donate.

Years ago,  when I had just started blood donation on a regular basis, I read an article of an elderly “mat salleh” lady who was featured in a newspaper article for having completed her blood donation record book (which was about 90 donation times). That was inspiration for me…. back then…..

I started donating on a regular basis. Fast forward some many(“some many” – a more colourful way of expression) years later, I’ve completed 4 blood donation record books.
Many people  ask me why I donate, more like why I donate so many times. I must be crazy. They had/have a lot of myths : I may run out of blood,  or I will put on a lot of weight (by golly, I did!  It was more of my appetite for great food that grew because there was a lot of great food around,  not because of blood donation); I will have health problems when I am in my senior age; possibly if I entertained all these “reasons”,  the list would be endless. One of the most important reasons for me to donate on a frequent basis is because a situation  of need could happen to anyone close to me, too.

In 1993, I dapat promotion – “plasma donor” . It was an invitation by the doctor, in view of my regular donations having chalked up a good number of donations. It was a “big thing” because I  was interviewed by a doctor(a lady doctor), first – how was my health,  do I take drugs, do I have sex with multiple partners – I thought she was hitting on me. How was I to tell her if I was having sex with multiple partners,  or not. I wondered how many would have truthfully answered that question. My answer to that question is of no relevance here. (hee hee) The interview took about half an hour, after which I was to wait in the lobby for a while. I passed the interview. The rest of history.

Many people are not aware that blood and platelets donations are different types of donations. Donating blood is the easiest, takes about 15 minutes to complete. One can donate blood every 3 months. Platelets takes around an hour to an hour and a half to complete. You actually get a sort of a workout….. for the arm that is having your blood drawn out from. You have to squeeze and squeeze, in order that your blood flow is continuous. You can donate platelets once every two weeks.

Platelets takes an average four cycles to complete. A cycle is 1) blood is drawn from your arm through a humongous size (didn’t want to mention it earlier as it may scare off prospective donors) needle that is connected via a series of tubes to a machine that is assigned to you. 2) The machine magically seperates or extracts the platelets from the blood and then, 3) pumps the blood together with a liquid solution back in your arm. You may get a slightly cold feeling as it goes back in your arm. As for me, after so many donations; I don’t seem to have this feeling. Could it be my arm has become numb ;)? This is a “cycle”. I’ve donated plasma twice or three-time before in the early ’90s. It does not seem “popular” now.

Go to the nearest hospital of convenience to you and donate. Start with the easy one first – blood. Be regular. Not everyone can donate. You have to be generally healthy. The doctors and nurses will advice you accordingly.  Consider yourself exceptionally privileged and an honour to be a donor. You can help save a life.

Your reward for being a donor? Some hospitals do, as a kind gesture; give something back to the donors. This may include hospital stay and treatment. But this should not be the reason to donate. It should be to help save lives!

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