Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Giving blood during COVID-19 June 18, 2020

Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

I’VE NEVER GIVEN MUCH THOUGHT to donating blood through the American Red Cross. It’s just something I’ve done, off and on, for years, after finally following Randy’s lead. I discovered that donating was easy. Drink plenty of fluids on donation day. Show up, healthy, at the appointed time with my RapidPass health screening paperwork in hand, go through a brief pre-donation physical screening and then move on to the table to start the donation process.

But the familiar routine of giving blood all changed with COVID-19. Suddenly, I thought twice about donating. Did I really want to do this in the middle of a global pandemic? Donating blood requires being up close with those screening and drawing your blood. But then I decided I needed to trust that all necessary precautions would be taken to keep me safe. They were.

I arrived masked, as required. Just like everyone at the community center donation site. My temperature was checked twice, once before I even entered. Tables were widely spaced in the former gymnasium. The foam form I squeezed during donation was covered. And only one worker tended to me, unlike in the past. Or, I should qualify, a sole Red Cross employee took me to the point of inserting the needle into my vein. It was then that everything changed. And it had nothing to do with COVID-19. Pain shot through my arm. Pain so intense that I had to muffle my outburst. I don’t recall my exact words. But they were something like, “Either you need to fix this or take this needle out.”

Let me assure you that I have a high threshold for pain having broken two bones, suffered from severe osteoarthritis in my hip and undergone eight surgeries in my lifetime. Blood and needles don’t scare me. But sharp pain like this, that bothered me. The supervisor took charge, professionally assessing that the needle likely needed to be pushed deeper into my vein. She made the adjustment and the pain eased to soreness. The likely cause of the problem, she explained, was scar tissue build-up on the vein.

My blood flowed freely into the bag. Soon I was done and sent to the refreshment table for juice and/or water and individually-packaged snacks. Then I was on my way, my first blood donation during a global pandemic successfully completed. Nothing to it. I considered that the new precautions put in place likely should always have been part of Red Cross protocol.

 

From The Gaylord Hub article.

 

For blood donors in one Minnesota small town, though, the changes due to COVID-19 reached beyond masking, social-distancing, more screening, etc. According to an article in the June 11 issue of the weekly, The Gaylord Hub, a recent blood drive in Gaylord “proved challenging.” And that wasn’t only because of deferrals and no-shows. The newspaper story states that “Gaylord coordinators were unable to serve the usual sandwiches, chips, pickles and beer.” Yes, you read that right. Beer. I’ll allow you to decide whether drinking beer right after giving blood is a good idea.

 

My blood donation card, now filled. I recently received a new one in the mail. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

One new idea announced this week seems like a really good one. Starting June 15 and at least through the summer, all blood donations will be tested for COVID-19 antibodies. Positive results indicate the donor may have had previous exposure to the virus and could thereby be eligible for the Convalescent Plasma Donation Program designed to help those battling COVID-19. That screening makes sense and is just one more way donors can help others. So, next time I give blood, I’ll learn whether the crud I experienced at Christmas with a temp, fatigue, feeling down and out, and a severe cough that lingered for weeks was just a routine seasonal virus. Or more.

© Copyright 2020 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Making donating blood just a little more personal February 8, 2018

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 5:00 AM
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My blood donation card in my wallet. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

I GIVE BLOOD to the American Red Cross whenever I can. Like last evening, at the Eagles Club in Faribault. I’m not paid. I just do it because it’s the right thing to do. Because blood transfusions saved my mom’s life years ago. Because I am healthy and able and I can help. My rare blood type, AB+, is always in high demand.

Admittedly I was a late-comer to this, having watched my husband donate blood for years before deciding I could do this, too. Now we go together, race each other in how long it will take to fill our blood collection bags. I usually win. We have a little fun.

Beyond the physical act of donating, I’ve never thought about what happens to my blood once it leaves Faribault. Now I know thanks to the Red Cross. The past two times I’ve given, I’ve received follow-up emails telling me specifically where my blood went. My mid-December donation went to Fairview Lakes Medical Center in Wyoming, Minnesota. Months earlier, my blood helped a patient at Douglas County Hospital in Alexandria, Minnesota.

It’s a brilliant idea, this sharing of location information. Although I will never know the name of the person whose life I may have helped save, I now feel a personal component to giving blood. And anytime that happens, we grow closer as humans in a world that, although deeply technologically connected, often feels more distant and uncaring than ever.

© Copyright 2018 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

I planned to give blood, but… May 24, 2017

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 10:43 AM
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THE BEST LAID plans don’t always work out. Case in point.

Monday evening my husband and I arrived at the local hospital to donate blood to the Red Cross. My rare AB positive blood is in high demand and I’m always willing to give when I can, the operative words being “when I can.”

With my Rapid Pass in hand, I was prepared to breeze through the check-in process and get down to the task of donating blood.

As we headed down the stairs toward the basement donation room, I observed how shiny and clean the stairs. This was a hospital, so I wouldn’t expect otherwise. And then it happened. I felt my legs stepping into air as I missed the final step on the stairway. I pitched forward toward the floor, door and concrete wall, apparently breaking my fall with my right shoulder. I lay there, stunned and hurting, until Randy helped me up.

At that point, I still thought I would be donating blood. But by the time we reached the donation site just down the hall, my pain was intensifying. I needed to see a doctor. Opting for the less expensive walk-in clinic rather than the ER, we headed next door. By then, the pain was so severe that I was crying.

You’ve likely determined by now that this story does not end well. X-rays showed a broken right shoulder.  As I’ve repeated my this is how this happened story to medical staff a half dozen times in the past few days, I consider how unbelievable that I would fall while at the hospital. This story is even better than fiction.

But this is reality, my reality of 8 -12 weeks of healing and physical therapy, when my body is ready. I’m currently in resting mode with my arm in a sling and instructions to ice as needed and to take Tylenol for pain. I’m starting a basic flex your elbow exercise today and will advance to the pendulum swing in 10 days. I am learning, adjusting and relying heavily on my husband for personal help and help with household tasks I typically do. He’s a great caregiver. He’s been through this with me before when I had my right hip replaced about 10 year ago.

I am not good at resting. I want to write and do photography and more. The photography won’t happen. I can’t hold my arm in the position needed to take photos. And this is prime photo season. Today is my first attempt at using my desktop computer. Typing with my right hand is a challenge. My blogging and other writing likely will be limited. Time will tell what I can and can’t do. I appreciate your understanding and hope you will remain in my readership.

When I start feeling sorry for myself, I consider how much worse my injuries could have been. I could have slammed my head into the concrete wall and suffered a concussion. I could have face-planted and broken by neck. I could have broken other bones that would have required surgery. My orthopedic doctor told me it I had to break a bone, I chose a good one to break. I’ll trust him on that.

So, dear readers, this is the situation I am in now. I am determined to do what I am told or risk additional injury and surgery. I don’t have to like that I am suffering this painful, limiting injury. But I will deal with it. There is no choice.

Copyright 2017 Audrey Kletscher Helbling