Friday, June 26, 2015

Tree of Life

Tree of Life
If you're a regular blood donor in the Puget Sound region, you may already know what this is. It's mounted on the wall of Bloodworks Northwest donor centers and each leaf has the name of a person who has made a certain number of donations.

I just earned a leaf for 50 donations.

Usually, you have to have 100 donations to earn a leaf on the tree but I recently changed my mailing address to a location where the minimum milestone is lower. I'm glad to have earned it but I'm looking forward to hitting 100.

My current total is 62 although I'm afraid they count attempts to donate equally with actual donations and the last three times I attempted to donate I was deferred for low iron. (Go figure.)

Low iron isn't especially unusual for women and my hematocrit levels (percentage of red blood cells in the blood) are borderline normal ( which is 36-45% for women). My last three visits, I've tested in the 32-36% range while 38% is the minimum for giving blood.

The blood center advises that frequent donation can sometimes lead to iron deficiency which is defined as two or more times per year for women. I try to donate around 12 times per year.

I also learned that women don't have enough iron stored in their bodies to replace the red blood cells lost from even a single donation. Therefore, our bodies need to use the iron from food to make new red blood cells. 200-250 mg of iron is lost during donation but absorption from food is generally limited to 2-4mg/day. So, it can take a while.

Perhaps I've been lucky because I can usually go back within a few weeks (for platelet donation which has the same minimum hematocrit criterion).

So, steak it is! I've started taking an iron supplement and eating iron-rich snacks to supplement my mostly vegetarian diet (aforementioned steak notwithstanding). Plus, I need to try some of these iron-rich recipes. And, I need to be patient.

(I wonder if there's iron in potato chips.)

Not to worry. I feel fine and I'll keep going back. I'll eat whatever I need to eat/do to get my iron levels back up and I'll keep testing my hematocrit to make sure everything is a-okay.

Because I want a leaf that has "100" on it.

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