Follow the Red Cross’s Advice

I’ve been a regular blood donor my entire adult life. I knew it also benefited me by reducing iron in my blood, but just learned that there are several fantastic health benefits for regular blood donors.

Friday morning I gave a whole blood donation. The American Red Cross (ARC) provides a follow-up sheet with a number to call if you experience anything unusual (e.g. arm swelling) and guidance to increase fluid intake and avoid strenuous activity and exercise. In 35 years, the only time I had an issue with a blood donation was my very first time. I was a college freshman who didn’t eat breakfast and I gave blood about 1pm before eating anything for the day. I became quite light-headed, but as soon as they got some food into me, I was fine.

Friday in Lumberton was a very hot day, reaching 100 degrees or so. Early that evening, stupidly, I played doubles tennis with my children Julia, Alec, and Dominic. The temperature had only dropped a few degrees from the high that day. I had warned them that I might only be able to play one set because of the blood donation. We began to play and I felt fine. Midway through the second set I felt a little light-headed and told the kids I wasn’t going to bend over to pick up tennis balls. I would hit them along the ground with my racquet to one of them to pick up.  We proceeded that way for a few games.

Then, I started to feel badly. I walked to the net post while announcing to them that I needed to stop playing.  I stood there for a while trying to collect myself. Soon, a sensation stole my consciousness. Fortunately, Julia was there to catch me. It was basically the opposite of falling asleep. When I fall asleep I have the experience that my consciousness drifts away into sleep. This sensation was as if another force came and actively snuffed out my consciousness.

This subconscious state was immediately filled with dreaming. If you had asked me right after what I had dreamed I could have told you, but I can’t remember now. As I came to, what I could experience most was the garish lights of the tennis courts. I could speak to my children, who were, understandably, concerned. I kept sipping liquids as I could. I recollect blacking out three times and the kids report that it was three or four times, some brief, and one long.

Thanks to the scout training (Troop 301 strong!), the kids quickly lowered my head and began rubbing ice from our water cooler on my body. The worst part of this ordeal, for them as much as me, is how long everything took. I lay on the burning hot tennis court for probably 45 minutes attempting to recover enough to sit up. During that time Amy and Elena arrived and joined my medical care team. Julia had nearly-Dr. Matt Bocchese and his nurse-brother on the phone getting advice. When I was able to sit up, I still didn’t feel too well. I wasn’t too concerned, even though I had never been through anything like this in my life. My heart wasn’t racing and I didn’t have any other symptoms that alarmed me. Next, I had a violent retching session. That did concern me because I realized that all of the fluids I had taken in were no longer available to help me.  After I vomited (all over myself – I recommend avoiding Court 1 at LHS until after we have a good rainstorm), I felt steadily better. The progress felt painfully slow, though.

I knew I should get out of the heat, but the car seemed too far away. If they tried to lift me up, the rush would probably cause me to black out again. They discussed obtaining a stretcher of some sort. The medical advice was that the ER would be the safest route. After another 45 minutes of sitting up, being rubbed with ice, and drinking Gatorade (which I really don’t care for), I felt well enough to attempt the car. The boys put their arms under me and helped me walk to the car.

One feature of our house that we rarely use is the full bath off the garage. I stripped off the vomit-soaked clothing and took a nice shower there. I laid on the couch and was suddenly overcome with chills that caused me to tremble uncontrollably. I wasn’t worried about that because after transitioning from 95 degrees to 78, plus a shower, I knew I was going to be cold. Nurse Keira Donaldson arrived and assisted with my diagnosis and care. Throughout the process I did feel overwhelmingly sleepy. We weren’t sure if going to sleep would be okay, or if it was simply blacking out again. I concluded that since it was about 10:30 at night, I was safe to sleep. Wouldn’t you know, I got very little sleep that night, which I think was the main reason I didn’t feel well the entire next day. My head was in a fog and I really couldn’t think properly to work, for example.

So, the moral of the story is: Follow the ARC instructions not to do anything strenuous for 24 hours. J

I’m also incredibly proud of my now young-adult children who all acted with considerable knowledge and skill, and great compassion. It is also nice to know that even greater medical knowledge is just a phone call away.


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