02 December 2009

Presyncope or, I had a really bad reaction to giving blood

I wrote the following an hour or so after the event (a blood drive clinic in a building at my work). In hindsight, I suppose this will sound pretty bad. When I told Monica about this, she said “you can't go alone anymore!” It’s not as if I’m driving there, or anything. It’s just down the elevator, across the court yard, and up a few floors. I think my bad reaction is a good thing. I mean, this is how my body is supposed to react to blood loss, right? I could consider my experience to be a test of sorts. Or even a “dry” run for the day I loose my arm in a tragic dissecting scope accident.

I gave blood for the first time in August. That time, I felt the presyncope coming as soon as the needle was taken out. I’ve had experience with this in the past, when I use to do yoga and it would make me almost pass out. That time, the nurses gave me cold compresses and had me lie there for a long time. Eventually I recovered.

So, for my second time giving blood, I was better prepared. I had a big breakfast and a lunch with lots of protein. And everything was fine. The needle came out and I felt fine. I was even composing a blog post in my head, all about my triumphant victory over my crappy circulatory system. Because of my past experience, they kept me lying down for a while, just for good measure. Then I went to the juice and cookie table and had a snack. I still felt fine.

It hit me as I was on my way out. I stopped to fill out a form, and my vision started to go, and I couldn't write my birthday correctly, and my printing was really messy from the combination of muscle weakness and blurry vision/blindness. But at this point, my brain wasn't working well, and so I didn't do the rational thing and go back into the room full of nurses and beds only a few meters away. Instead I decided I needed to get to a bathroom and sit down, except I didn't know where the bathroom was on that floor. Then I decided if I could just get to the library, I could sit in the reading room until I felt better (my office, at that point, felt really far from the place where the clinic was set up). The library was  only 1 floor up from where I was, but I knew I couldn't do the stairs, and the elevator was at the end of a really long hallway.

I'm really glad no one else was in the hallway. I must have looked really pathetic. I'd lost my hearing by this point, it was like I was wearing ear plugs, every thing was really muffled (in fact, at one point, I checked to see if I actually was wearing ear plugs). I was really hot and breaking out in sweats, and my vision was at best spotty. I was lurching down the hallway, with my arms hanging limp at my sides, trying desperately not to fall and pass out. I made it to the elevator, and into the elevator. There was a period of time (no idea how long) before I remembered I needed to hit a button. I selected floor 4, then I fell down. Then I ended up in the basement. I really don't know what happened: I'm sure I pressed 4, and that the light on the 4 lit up. Anyhow, I stumbled out on the basement level and I was really confused because I was expecting the 4th floor. I kind of just fell against the elevator button to bring it back. I looked really hard at the buttons again and selected 4. This time I got it right. This whole time all I could think about was getting to the library. I knew if I could just get to the reading room, I would be okay.

I had to say hi to two people on the 4th floor on my way to the library. I tried to look and talk like someone who wasn't about five seconds from blessed oblivion. I imagine it's a lot like pretending to be sober when you're stoned. I made it to the reading room (empty, thankfully), and had the presence of mind to pick up a journal before I sat down in the least observable spot.

I sat there for while. When I was better (no more hot flashes and sweats, clear vision and hearing), I went back to my office to sit some more.

I'm giving blood again in February. I figure I can’t let two badish experiences stop me from saving lives. Besides, based on the l-o-n-g list of elimination criteria they have, I estimate there are only about 20 people left in Canada who are even allowed to give blood, so I really feel duty bound to give it another go.

Aside: When you give blood they ask you a serious of absurdly personal yes or no questions, along the lines of: have you ever paid for sex, have you ever accepted money or drugs for sex, have you had sex with someone who's had sex with someone who does IV drugs, etc. There's like 20 questions, and even though I know I'm going to answer No to all them, but I still find myself thinking about and considering the questions. It's like, "hmm, have I used cocaine in the last 12 months?"


Anonymous said...

Oh, Ellie. Every time I have to get a vaccine I marvel at the fact that I can personally take 10cc of blood from a very angry bird and be fine, but when the nurse comes near me with a needle I immediately, unflinchingly, heroically pass out. I enjoyed how your response to illness is to go to the library. Because books will make you better!


Justin said...

Holy Crap! What an experience. I'm glad you survived.

Haillie O'Brien said...

It makes me feel a lot better knowing I am not the only one who hides these symptoms while donating blood. I get them right after the needle is removed but once I am allowed to go to the snack table I am fine. So I always tell myself "just 5 minutes and then you will be fine" meanwhile I am about to throw up all over the place. Being distracted with music and reading usually helps!