Monday, June 18, 2012

Platelet Donation and the Athlete

The latest race report will have to wait for a few days (I am hoping to see some other photos), while I write up this little report.


Now this isn't all scientific, just one athlete's n=1 type deal when it comes to donating blood and race / training performance.


So last week I was called by Canada Blood Services. I am in their system as I have donated a few times in the past. Apparently they matched my platelets as a dead on match to a person in Newfoundland undergoing some sort of treatment. Now what this treatment exactly is I don't know. I guess it doesn't really matter one way or the other.


Now I will admit that I have been a little selfish with my blood lately. I used to donate a lot more a few years back. But with all of the training I do and with there always seeming to be a race popping up, and I just couldn't find the time to go. And truthfully I didn't want it to hurt my performance. I guess it is extra bad as with B+ blood, I am actually one of the rarer blood types and therefore in demand.


I suppose it was easy to justify also, as my last few donations didn't go as well as the ones before. I would get pale, require extra attention and not be able to leave the clinic for awhile afterwards. I am not entirely sure why all of a sudden I would get faint after many successful donations, but it surely did not inspire me to go back.


So here I was called the Monday before my next race and asked to come in ASAP. As I said, I couldn't really say no and luckily being in demand isn't a bad thing as they made room to fit my schedule. So I got in on the Wednesday that week, leaving myself a few days to "come back."


The last time I donated I was asked if platelets might be something I would be willing to donate in the future. I said sure. So I was tested and told, sorry you are too low to donate. Now, not dangerously low, just lower than they like (under 200,000 per μl of blood or not 200 as they tell us in the chair). But being an exact match, they lower the limitations as long as you are over 150,000, as I was.
A picture of platelets from Wikipedia
So with all of this weighing on my mind (low count, race coming up, probably going to get faint, sore arm, etc....) I headed into the clinic. I was weighed, measured, asked questions and then setup in a recliner. 

I felt a little silly as the nurses had to spend all sorts of extra time with me. My low count meant I would be sitting in the chair for a longer time (turns out 1.5 hours). Also my pressure being low meant I had to squeeze a little ball the whole time (again 1.5 hours) or the machine would start beeping. This also meant constantly adjusting my needle (fun). And of course I did feel faint. So I had a little juice box, a cold compress and the chair even more reclined than normal.  And to add insult to injury, the anti coagulant they pump into you to keep things flowing is chilled, so the longer you are int he chair the colder you get, and I got very cold, so I needed a warm blanket.

I finally got all the platelets I could out, then hung around for a bit to recover before heading home. I survived and as the life span of donated platelets is a mere 5 days I will be needed to come in every 2 weeks at this point, at least as long as the person in Newfoundland is undergoing the mystery treatment.

But all of this comes back to, "how did this affect your athletic performance, Ian?" Well I have to say, it didn't hurt it one bit.  Platelets are regenerated very quickly, and frankly should be back up to snuff in less than a day. By the next day I was doing an easy 6K run, the day after 1600m in Chocolate Lake (while at a slow pace for me it was still a workout), and then an easy 5K run Saturday. All this and I raced to second place on Sunday at the Duathlon in Greenwood. And I raced hard. One of the MPs on the base even clocked me going 55 km/hr on a very slight downhill section on my bike.

So to all of you thinking you might be able to help out, platelets and plasma are the way to go in season. A few hours of your time during the week and the worst side affect (and this seems to be the case from the many websites I have read)  is a bit of a sore arm for the day. Both allow you to recover the missing portions of your blood in less than a day and can be donated every 2 weeks.
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