I recently donated blood for the first time. It was an interesting experience because, not only did I feel like I did something good, it also raised a lot of questions.
To donate blood, they stick you in the arm with a needle that is connected to a tube that takes the blood from your body to a collection bag. I was watching my blood flow into the bag when I wondered, if I am donating a pint of blood, how, where, and when will I replenish what I am donating to get back to my body’s normal supply of about 10–12 pints?
When they took my blood, they took whole blood which includes red and white blood cells, plasma, and platelets.
All of the components of whole blood are made in bone marrow, the flexible tissue found inside hollow bones like our skull, sternum and pelvis. Interestingly, each type of blood cell has a different life span. Red blood cells, for instance, can last for four months whereas platelets only survive about nine days.
Under normal conditions, one’s donated pint of blood is completely replenished in about 6 – 8 weeks, and when one is healthy and well prepared, there’s really nothing to it.
When I had finished giving my blood, I felt pretty good and walked to the “recovery room” which consisted of tables with pizza, soda, cookies, and candy. I sat down and started talking with my friends. All of the sudden my head started spinning and I did not feel so good! I tried to shake it off but the next thing I knew I was in being laid down on the ground in someone’s arms with them yelling, “Kyle, Kyle!”
As I said, this was my first time donating blood.
I did not know I was supposed to do so on a full stomach and well hydrated with plenty of water and juice. I showed up having consumed my normal morning breakfast of yogurt and two cups of coffee.
This was less than ideal for a couple reasons.
First, we rely on glucose—sugar–to keep us functioning because it is the main source of energy for the cells in our body. We get glucose from foods we eat. Second, without having consumed enough liquid, and then losing more liquids through the donation, my blood pressure dropped and me with it. The reason? Not enough blood was getting to my brain, so my rescuers lowered me to the ground and got my legs up, to increase the blood flow to my brain!
To aid my recovery, I ate some pizza and drank some soda and was my chipper self again in no time!
Will I donate blood again? Yes! I learned so much from doing it this time; I can only imagine what I will learn next time if I eat and drink enough beforehand so I don’t faint!
Kyle Hunter is afterschool coordinator for Morehead Planetarium and Science Center.