Save a Life

Save a Life (by getting stabbed with a needle, but don't worry about that)  

Type: Indoors
Category: Volunteer
Company: Anyone who wants to help save a stranger's life by donating blood and/or marrow
Cost: Free (you might even get a cookie and soda out of it)

For once, I'm going to tell you to get Off The Couch and go relax in a comfy chair.  No running (unless you panic and try to ditch out), no sweating (aside from nerves), and no fear of breaking any bones.  In this post, I'll explain what goes on with donating blood, platelets, and marrow. 

Blood Donation
Everyone knows about donating blood, but unfortunately not enough people actually contribute.  Even with blood drives and donation centers around the country, only 3% of Americans donate.  Patients are always in need of blood, and the process is easier than most people think.  In fact, the paperwork usually takes longer than the actual "needle-in-arm" part of it.  

OTC Fact: One pint of blood can save up to three lives.

The process works like this.  You fill out some paperwork and have your vitals taken  to confirm that you are indeed eligible to donate (read here).  Next the nurse will choose a vein, tie your arm off at the bicep, and insert a clean needle.  

OTC Tip: Every nurse will tell you to look away when they start poking at you.  However (and it might be because I'm crazy), I've found it hurts less if I watch the needle enter my vein.  For some reason it helps me keep the process as my own, and I barely feel it.

Your blood is fed into a sterile bag on a scale to determine when it is full, and then the nurse will remove the needle, wrap your arm in colorful gauze, and hand you a soda and cookie.  Then you relax for 10-15 minutes and you're on you way.  Most donors fill a bag in 10-12 minutes, during which you can read a magazine or check your smartphone.  

OTC Tip:  Need extra (selfish) motivation to donate?  You get an excuse to lie around on your couch the rest of the day, no exercise for you (seriously, don't try to workout right after donating - it's a whole new level of excitement that I don't need again).  OffTheCouchLA won't harass you, I promise.  

For more info on donating blood, and to find a donation center near you, visit the Red Cross's website. There are also hospitals throughout LA that will accept donations.  Personally, I donate at Torrance Memorial.  You can donate blood every 8 weeks. 

Platelet Donation
Upping the ante on the blood donation is platelet donation (known as Plateletpheresis) involves drawing out a small amount of blood at a time and spinning it through a cell-separating machine to remove the platelets.  The blood is then returned to your body, and the process is repeated.  Over and over, for about 90 minutes. If you can handle lying still on a reclining chair and watching a movie, you can easily donate platelets (there's also the whole "giant needle in your arm", but try to block that part out. 

OTC Fact: One platelet donation can be worth from 12 to 18 whole blood donations. 

OTC Tip: Although only one arm will be part of the business end of a needle, make sure that anything you want out of your pockets (iPod, phone, gum) is on your lap prior to beginning.  Even with a free hand it's next to impossible to access any pocket. 

You can donate platelets every 2 weeks; locations can be found via your local red cross

Bone Marrow
Scared of needles?  What about cotton swabs?  If you can handle swabbing the inside of your mouth, then you can register to be a bone marrow donor.   Bone marrow transplant is a life-saving treatment for people with leukemia, lymphoma and many other diseases.

OTC Fact: Minorities are most in need, as there aren't enough registry members of diverse racial and ethnic heritage.
If you decide to register, you will be mailed a packet with information and cotton swabs.  All you do is swab your mouth a few times and mail back.  It will take about 5 minutes out of your day, and you will be registered in the National Marrow Donor Program.  Simple enough, right?  About one in 540 registrants are matches for a patient in need.    

OTC Tip: Contrary to popular belief, if you are eventaully matched up with a patient, you don't have to go through any surgery.  The majority of donations are through peripheral blood stem cell donation, which is non-surgical.

To easily join, please go to the Be The Match website 

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