Pre-Op Testing — Blood Work

Today was pre-op testing, which reinforced the fact that, in between the moment when you decide to give a kidney and the instant they start the anesthetic, the donating process mostly involves just signing copious amounts of paperwork and submitting copious samples of blood. Today I gave seventeen (Seventeen!) three-inch vials of blood for testing. This first involved the nurse (a friendly Hispanic man) surveying my wimpishy puny veins with disappointment. His face looked like someone struggling to find parking till they admit defeat and accept the space along the back row.

Sample dialogue after the jump:

Him (two fingers tapping on my forearms insistently): We’re going to be taking seventeen tubes of blood.

Him (several ego-deflating minutes later): I’m trying to find a good vein so we don’t have to use both arms.

Him (another minute later, marking my arm with a pen): I’m not making any promises…

Me (several minutes of blood pumping out of my arm later):  So is this *all* for testing or is some of it in case I need blood for a transfusion in  surgery?*

Him (having extracted the last drop from that limb): Oh, it’s all for testing. You’re not getting any of this back.

Him (chuckling, removing the needle): You’re not getting any of this back.

Him (putting the needle into my other arm): I told you I wasn’t making any promises…

Me (woozily, minutes later, gesturing at the mountain of blood vials) So, what’s all that for?

Him (excited to tell a captive audience about his work): These five are cross-matching.** These are HIV.  [Reels off a few that my sub-functional memory doesn’t retain] This is blood-clotting. This is glucose. Are you ok?

Me (sort of ok): What?

Him (disappointed in me): You looked like you were going to faint.

Me (looking like I’m going to faint): Oh, no, not going to faint.

Him (seconds later, taking needle out): Ok. Now wait here to talk to the nurse-practitioner who’ll be doing your anesthesia for the surgery.

Me (not fainting): Mm.

*When I was fifteen, I had elective jaw surgery to correct an underbite (plastic surgery essentially, though health insurance covered it). That time they took blood in case they needed to transfuse it back to me during the operation. I thought that might be common practice, but apparently it’s not.

** Cross matching means making sure the recipient’s body hasn’t developed antibodies against my kidney. This is the second cross-match; the first was a few weeks ago, and this one’s just to make sure nothing has changed since then. A previous recipient I had been lined up to donate to in a paired donation failed the first cross-match with me, which I understand to be a fairly common, albeit unfortunate, occurrence.

(Previous posts in this series can be found here)


10 thoughts on “Pre-Op Testing — Blood Work

  1. It is fairly common to donate your own blood in case you need it during surgery. However, if your surgery is coming up in 5 days (which it sounds like?) they wouldn’t take it from you because you wont replete your blood stores in time for the surgery. They usually take your blood just under a month prior to your planned surgery date.

  2. Very funny post Josh! I do want to note though, acknowledging you were just being humorous and are still undergoing the donation, that 17 tubes sounds like a lot but the total volume (assuming 5 mL tubes) is still less than a fifth of the volume of a standard blood donation. A lot of patients, especially those with blood disorders, would routinely give a dozen tubes for visits or studies. In general, I hope people are not dissuaded from either kidney donation, or studies in general, because of blood draws–the benefits in either case far outweigh that inconvenience.

    • David, I’m just going to be honest with you, if someone isn’t going to donate a kidney because they’re nervous about the blood draws, then they fundamentally do not understand what they’ve signed up to do. But 100% agreed on research studies and the like. Way less blood than a unit!

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