View Full Version : Donating own blood

10-31-2007, 09:23 PM
Today was my first appointment to donate blood; I was hoping to donate 4 units. Passed the screening tests - pulse, blood pressure, temperature, hematocrit all fine.

I've always had a problem with blood draws in that my veins are very small, but a "butterfly" needle in my wrist usually works for a routine blood draw. Turns out that a much larger needle is used to take a pint, and the Red Cross site only allows needles (1 size fits all) into the inside of the elbow. The nurse started on my left arm, couldn't get a flow, manipulated the needle because she thought the needle hit a valve and after about 30 minutes gave up on that side. The right side insertion went smoothly and blood began to flow ... and then it slowed to a trickle ... and then it stopped. The nurse did all kinds of things to get the flow to resume, but nothing worked. Apparantly the needle was just too large for my size vein. After 45 minutes on the right arm, I was sent home.

We will try again next week, but my goal of 4 units is now impossible and my ability to donate even 1 unit looks questionable. I do not doubt the nurse's skills.

I know this is small stuff in the greater scheme of things, and that donor blood will be just fine. I don't even mind the huge bruises on both arms.

However, what I DO mind is that the half-pint of perfectly good blood that was collected will be disposed of - they do not process anything less than a full pint.

I am upset and sad, which probably is also due to the fact that my surgery is now becoming much more real - less than 5 weeks away.

I am so thankful for this forum because it is a safe place for me to whine. Sorry for the rambling, but I needed to get this off my chest.

10-31-2007, 09:39 PM
That's awful, I'm really sorry for your bad experience. It's awful going through those types of procedures, it makes it all seem 'real' and you get put into the patient role... all for a few drops of blood that get thrown out. Have a search on the forum, there are lots of people who have had similar experiences trying to donate blood before surgery. There are tips about hydration beforehand (a biggie) and using hot water bottles to bring veins up and expanded. If you're cold the veins contract and go deeper.

10-31-2007, 09:51 PM
Janet- do you think you should tell your doctor and anesthesiologist about how small your veins are? or do they already know? Lisa

11-01-2007, 07:12 AM
They just use the larger size needles for blood donation and receiving, so as not to damage the red blood cells. You can also do exercises with light hand weights to increase the blood flow to your arms. This helps in increase the size of the blood vessels.

11-01-2007, 07:24 AM
Janet, it's more the norm to have problems with blood donation than not, I've found after reading this forum for two years. I was only able to donate a fraction of the blood I needed and of course the blood-bank supply these days is perfectly safe. I would also suggest you drink a ton of water before you try again. I would also say if your next appointment doesn't go well, call it a day and concentrate on other things....it's not worth the anguish!

Hang in there....

11-01-2007, 09:25 AM
Janet--see how it goes the next session. It's good if you can give your own blood but if not there is the donor blood so try not to worry! I believe I gave 3 pints and did not have a family member to give the 4th & the office said that was fine. I had a big steak most nights before the blood donation the next day. Also have a good breakfast. I had granola, orange juice, toast, fruit. I am not a big breakfast eater so I had to force myself but I did not feel too dizzy/tired after the blood donation so I think it helped greatly. By the way, What was your iron count??? Ly

11-01-2007, 09:49 AM
Hi Janet

I can feel for you. My daughter wasn't successful until the 3rd trip to the blood bank because of a high pulse rate. She almost passed out towards the end of the donation and was very weak, dizzy and had headaches the rest of that week and stayed home from school. She's thin and small so I believe that's why she didn't feel well.

When I called the blood bank several days later, they informed me that they weren't sure they had enough blood to process, I literally became sick to my stomach. I begged her to please process whatever they had, they called the blood bank director and processed it, she said it was barely enough. I was prepared to fight them because they never told my husband that they were short on the unit, we assumed it was fine. You would be better off not donating at all if you don't think they can get the full amount, they will not add to it later either. I now have my daughter on iron hoping she'll gain back what she lost.

Her doctor is conducting studies now to determine if autologous blood donation is even necessary or desirable for adolescents. It would save parents a lot of worry if they determine it's not.

Good luck with your blood donation and surgery.

11-01-2007, 11:22 AM

I am so sorry for your frustration. I , too, shed an hour's worth of tears because I had my daughter and my brother donate for Nicole and they were the wrong blood type. I thought she was A and I was O, but it was the other way around. My husband and son could have donated for her, but then it was too late. They used a unit that she donated for herself and then they gave her packed red cells from the blood bank. I am sad all the time when I think about how I tried to do everything perfectly and ended up messing up. I pray that what she received was perfectly safe.

11-01-2007, 12:27 PM
Thanks for all the compassion, support, and great suggestions. A good night's sleep has helped a lot - I feel ready to go about other pre-op business. I will try again next week, but if that fails, I will cancel the remaining appointments.

I've been drinking lots of liquids and eating red meat, veggies, fruit, etc. I did not feel dizzy or fatigued after leaving the blood bank - just sad. The nurse said to avoid caffeine (which I had been doing for a week) because of its diuretic effect. She said the platelets were sticking together and blocking the blood flow into the tube.

I wasn't aware of the hot and cold issue - I am always cold, so that may well have been a factor. Next time I will apply heat, and wear more clothes. And I will try the hand weights exercises. I've read every "adult first-time" post for the past 3 years, but didn't go back to re-read about auto-donations, but I will do so. It is daunting to try to do everything the right way, and so easy to feel like a screw-up when things go wrong.

Now for some helpful tips: I had a blood draw 2.5 weeks ago; lots of things were checked. My hemoglobin then was 11.8, yesterday it was 12.4. I have had iron deficiency anemia for at least 25 years and periodically was taking ferrous sulfate but never could get the HG above 11.9. My PCP put me on several supplements: "Ferrofood" (10 mg iron; 2x/day) from Standard Process Inc. instead of the ferrous sulfate (seems to have worked); a calcium-magnesium supplement; a Vitamin D supplement (5,000 i.u., 1x/day) because blood test showed I have a major Vitamin D deficiency. PCP said that Vitamin D deficiency is reaching epidemic proportions in the US because of the use of sunblock for the past several decades, and that most PCPs do NOT test Vitamin D levels. For those scheduled for surgery, perhaps ask your PCP to have Vit. D levels checked.
Dr. B's office also presecribed folic acid supplements, plus Vit C. & iron.

Thanks again for your support (( ))

11-02-2007, 01:05 AM
Hi Janet,
We all want to be able to donate our own blood, but it is not always possible.

It's not a deal breaker, donate what you can and accept what you need from the blood bank. I donated 2 units and then had to recieve an additional 2 units, it was okay.

I did was I was told to do and then I trusted my surgeon to get me through the rest of it. We do the best we can in circumstances that are out of our control, but having faith in our doctor's seem to get us thought the part that may be out of our control.

Having faith in my Doctor made all the difference in my fears, and I hope you can find the same comfort!!!


11-07-2007, 12:28 PM
Janet--I was wondering if you had success this week... I've been thinking of you and how discouraging that must have been! :( They have to have a certain amount of blood or it won't keep right, so that is why they had to discard your half pint. I meant to write sooner, but had company lately and didn't get to it.

When I was giving blood, it seemed to be a major preoccupation of mine-- everything I ate was focused on helping me to be able to do that. I ended up being able to give the 4 units they wanted, but barely. The 4th time I was rejected because my hematocrit had dropped too low, but was able to try again a few days later. So I gave 4 units in a little over 3 weeks' time. The red cross workers said I was the first woman they remember doing that in their memory, and most men can't, so you sure shouldn't feel too badly if you can't do 4--or even any. Sometimes the doctors are thinking ideally what they want, and it doesn't turn out to be practical. Last spring I sure read up a lot on iron and diet. Also, if anyone is having problems with their iron, I found out that blackstrap molasses (and some don't have it as high, so check the label) has 70% of your RDA. The redcross workers suggested taking 2 Tablespoons (Yuck!) :eek: each night, which I did. Also-- orange juice aids in iron absorption. You can take in plenty of iron through various means, but some of it will pass right back out. I got in the habit of drinking orange juice along with my high iron foods. For breakfast I usually had a Quaker Oats breakfast cookie, because they have 35% of your iron RDA. My scoli nurse also had me taking three 325mg.tabs of iron each day during that time. The down side of all that iron is that it causes constipation-- but much more embarassing/humiliating was that it caused a lot of gas. Boy, am I glad I'm beyond that now! :rolleyes: Then I wondered if after all that hard work they would really need that much blood. They used 3 during the surgery and the other when I was in intensive care. If there had been a 5th, they would have used it also.

Anyway, let us know how it went for you this week. And rest assured that it will all work out whether or not you can do the autologous donations. We are all pulling for you!

11-07-2007, 10:08 PM
Well, I just got home from the Red Cross, and YES :D I was able to give a full pint, notwithstanding a slow start due to the small vein. The nurse said she doubted I could give anymore because the hemoglobin dropped from 12.4 to 11.6 in on week (having given a mere 1/2 unit a week ago).

I'm keeping my 2 remaining appointments and we shall see how it goes.

Thanks all for your sage advice and encouragement.

Gotta go eat something....


Karen Ocker
11-08-2007, 06:21 PM
One interesting I recently learned in my professional literature that the act of donating your own blood stimulates your body to increase blood production.
Janet, you're doing really great with your preparations.
Also, any blood you may lose during surgery gets filtered and given back to you.