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We Need Blood… But Not Yours

I donate blood when I can. At least I used to.

When the company organizes a blood drive, many of us respond. This happens several times each year and when the latest announcement came out a couple of months ago, I was one of the first to sign up. That 8:30am time slot is exactly what I wanted.

Arriving at 8:33 on blood letting day, I witnessed the Red Cross staff setting up their theater, something they would do for the next 20 minutes. I’ve come to expect this, but it’s ironic that the Red Cross robo calls beg for blood as though five people will die without your immediate donation. Yet when the day arrives to jab arms and fill bags, they move slower than I do after an IRONMAN.

It was almost 9am when I sat down to answer the technician’s questions: easy questions like, “Have you paid for sex in the last 12 months?” Then came the two fingers on the wrist. I’ve never been any good at feeling a pulse on the wrist, but these folks know what they are doing. Forty eight beats per minute.

She hesitated.

Then she called for her supervisor who put two fingers on my wrist and glared at her watch. Thirty seconds later she announced, “Forty eight.”

Technician: I’m sorry but your pulse is too low. You won’t be able to donate today.

Me: I’m sorry, did you say too low?

Technician: Your pulse has to be between 50 and 100 in order to donate blood.

Between 50 and 100? Basically, because my heart is healthy I can’t donate blood. How many of us triathletes have resting heart rates below 50? Probably most of us.

What bothers me is that upper bound of 100. Are they telling us that someone with a resting heart rate of 100 beats per minute is healthy enough to donate blood and an athlete with a heart rate of 48 is not? They must be accounting for nervous donors who have a healthy fear of needles. And if that’s the case, then the other end of the spectrum must be someone so relaxed that the thought of receiving a 16 gauge needle in the crook of the arm elicits pleasure. Maybe that’s an indication that the donor is no stranger to needles (e.g., drug addict). “Uh oh! Get this guy out of here.”

But we are triathletes. We live in that zone. It’s that place where pain resides and becomes our friend. We’ve learned to bring the memory of those painful experiences into our daily lives so we can laugh at the little obstacles: the obstacles that stop most people in their tracks. What is one needle stick compared to mile 18 and the sun going down? Only those who train to suffer will understand.

Usually my resting heart rate is around 40 to 42 bpm. What if they had recorded that instead of 48? CPR?

Until next time…

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