Giving & The Red Cross, Mark Jensen
I'm sure you're wondering "What the fork is that?" This is the machine I was hooked up to (and the chair I was lying in) when donchais called me and gave me real time, over the phone coverage of the reading of the verdict in the Mark Jensen case. This machine, called a blood cell separator machine is used by hospitals and The Red Cross for donating platelets, also known as apheresis donation. I had 17 more minutes to go on the machine and my phone started ringing. I'm calling my nurses, "Help! I need my phone asap! I know a verdict has come it!" Even though I was hooked up to this machine, I was determined to hear the Jensen verdict as it happened.
I became interested in platelet donation about nine years ago when I found out it was an easy and cost free way to get listed on the National Bone Marrow Registry. At the time, I had recently learned that two children of a distant relative (by marriage) had a rare illness that could only be treated through a bone marrow transplant. That got me interested in learning how I could get on the registry, which led me to the Red Cross and platelet donation. The Red Cross told me that I could join the registry for free if I donated platelets. In the halls of the Red Cross center where I first donated were stories in the paper of people who had donated platelets over 100 times and it inspired me to try to reach a goal I set for myself of 100 donations.
The Red Cross often calls me to donate. They really like my blood products because I'm something of a high platelet producer. I naturally have a high abundance of platelets flowing around in my blood, so when I donate they have often asked me to do a double or triple donation. This means that with just a single collection they can treat up to three patients. One of the main uses of platelets are for cancer patients who are under going treatments such as chemotherapy that cause them to lose platelets. Although whole blood can be stored for about a month, platelets only have shelf life of five days.
Federal regulations state that people can donate platelets up to 24 times a year, which is more often than whole blood. People can donate whole blood once every eight weeks, or every 56 days. There is an extensive screening process you must go through before you can donate blood or any other blood products. First your temperature is taken and your finger pricked to take a drop of your blood to test your iron levels. If you pass those, then you have to answer an extensive questionnaire on a computer screen. There are over 50+ questions you have to answer each and every time you donate. They range from questions about your health, your travel outside the US to your past sexual activity. Yes answers to some questions will permanently exclude you from ever being able to donate, such as "Have you ever paid for sex?" or, "Have you ever exchanged sex for drugs after 1977?" or "Have you ever spent five or more cumulative years in Europe from 1980 to present?"
After you completed the questionnaire, it's a good idea to go to the bathroom because once you're on the machine, you will be lying there for at least an hour or more, sometimes two. It's around this time that I stop by the extensive video library to pick out a movie on DVD. During this donation, I pick out The Illusionist, starring Ed Norton. After I get myself comfortable, and the pressure cuff is applied on my upper arm, I tell my nurse that I'd like to go for a triple donation today. Just keep me on the machine until you have three full platelet draws. I ask for the nurse who has always been the best with my needle sticks because the size of the needle that has to be used for this procedure is a #16, a pretty big needle. Once the needle is in an object is placed in my hand of that same arm, usually a soft ball. I need to squeeze it every five seconds for the duration of the donation. If I forget, the machine will make some beeps and the nurses are reminding me to squeeze.
When I first started donating years ago, the machines back then required that you had to have a needle in each arm. One for the blood coming out and one for the red blood cells being returned to you. That was quite difficult keeping both your arms out, and unable to scratch an itch or reposition yourself to be more comfortable, especially if you're going to be in that chair for over an hour. Now days the machines are much more sophisticated and they only need a single needle inserted. One of the side effects patients often experience when donating is they get quite cold and I'm no exception. I've donated quite a few of my hot/cold packs to this Red Cross center and they come in handy to keep me warm while I watch a movie.
Today, while on the machine I have a craving for sugar, and I ask one of my nurses if they can go up to the front desk where there is a large jar of Jolly Rancher and a root beer flavored hard candy. "Bring me four of each please," I tell her, knowing that this totally blows my Genotype "Gatherer" diet for the day. Unfortunately, those candies only sated my sugar cravings for a short time. When the movie ends I find I've got about 18 more minutes to go on the machine for a total time of 104 minutes. It was right after that when my phone rang and I got to hear the jury's verdict. Once I'm off the machine, I ask the center manager if I can take one more photo, and that's of the platelets they extracted today.
I can't help it. I always think of pee when I see bags of collected platelets. As I leave the center, the staff was also able to tell me that as of that date, I've donated approximately 40 times, with a lifetime total of 60 separate blood products collected. It looks like it will take me another 2.5 years to reach my goal of 100 separate donations.
In the United States, blood type O is the most common blood type with Type A running a close second. Type O negative blood (which is what I am) is the universal donor, meaning it can be transfused to anyone in case of emergencies. In an emergency, time often does not allow for blood typing, making it crucial to have an adequate supply of type O negative available. In Southern California, only 3 percent of the local population donates to service this area. The American Red Cross has to import 32% of the Type O blood it needs from other parts of the US. What does this mean? There is an overwhelming need for type O blood in Southern California. Even if you are not a Type O, consider donating blood or organizing a blood drive at your place of employment. It's a wonderful, selfless way to give back to your community. Besides, you never know when you or your loved ones may need life saving blood products.
Spector & OJ
There is a pretrial hearing in the Phil Spector case on Friday, March 7th at 9:00 am (PT), and I plan on being there, blogging about the proceeding in real time. At this time, I have no idea if there will be live coverage or a taped video available later. Today, T&T learned that there is also going to be a pretrial hearing in the OJ Simpson case in Las Vegas on the very same date. It's pretty likely that TTV/CNN will have cameras in the courtroom covering that hearing, since they've already reported that In Session correspondent Beth Karas will be reporting on the event. Stay tuned! Friday looks like it will be an interesting day.
Update: 3:50 PM
I've just been notified that the Spector hearing has been moved to March 28th, 2008.
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