Monday, June 4, 2007

First-hand from the MSK Donor Room

On Friday, I donated platelets for Toby at the MSKCC donor room. I want to get the word out so that everyone can know how really easy and relatively painless the whole procedure is. And I'm completely nervous and ick-ed out by needles - I am not stoic about these things, really.

First - MSK does everything they can to make it easy to donate. You call Mary Thomas or the donor room to schedule an appointment. (Mary's # is 212-639-3335 and the Donor Room is 212-639-7648). They take donations every day, including weekends, and they keep track of what Toby's needs are so that you will only be scheduled when they know he will need something. This is pretty easy right now, as he is in pretty constant need of both blood and platelets. If you drive to the hospital (which only took about a half hour from Park Slope on Friday at 9:30 am), you can park for free in the MSK parking lot at 66th and York. They give you a parking voucher when you check in with the Donor Room.There's a link on the right side of the blog where all the info is easy to find. There is also lots of information about donating on the hospital's website.

Once you get there, you fill out some paperwork and they take a pinprick of blood from your finger to find out if your iron count is high enough. A number of Toby's friends have been turned away because their iron counts were too low, but if you eat high iron foods and/or take iron supplements (like liquid Flouridex) for a couple of weeks, you can try again. Once you get through the preliminary stuff, you go into the Donor Room - a room with about 8 dentist-like chairs with little TVs attached to them. You sit in one of them, they put the needle in your arm and take your donation. OK - so here's the deal with the needle: If you've ever given blood before, or had an IV put in before - you know what it feels like. It does hurt, but really only for about 10 seconds. Then you really don't feel it. You may not want to look at the tubes coming out of your arm, but you don't feel any discomfort once the needle is in. For anyone who has ever given birth, it hurts SO much less than even five minutes of your labor did. Even the most needle phobic among us can do it. I am in that group, so I can attest to it.

I gave platelets, which meant that my blood went into a machine that separates the red blood cells from the platelets. The platelets are collected for Toby and the red blood cells got mixed with a small amount of a short-term anti-coagulant and put back in my arm with the same needle that the blood was coming out through. It felt slightly cold around where the needle was and my fingers were a little tingly from the anticoagulant, but again - no pain. And for those who worry about the hygiene of the equipment that is putting blood back into your body, all parts that touch the blood are disposable and only used by one person.

The whole process once I was hooked up took just over 90 minutes. (Donating blood is much quicker.) I got a special treat, because Mooki knew I was there and she came to visit me for a few minutes, which was great. In the past when I have given blood, I have been extremely light-headed. Because they give you back your red blood cells, that doesn't happen with platelets. I drank a cup of oj and ate a cookie, and I was able to drive myself home about 20 minutes after I was done.

I think there's a good chance that the platelets that came out of my arm on Friday will go into Toby's arm on Monday or Tuesday. I can't imagine a more direct way to help him and his parents.

I hope that everyone who reads this will try to donate. If you are a different blood type than Toby, they will swap your blood for one in the general hospital blood supply and put your name on Toby's donor list. Almost everyone can do it (they will talk you through the list of who can't - mostly involving living abroad - when you call for an appointment). You can go with a friend to have company when you do it. It takes less than a whole morning. For most of us, this is the most important and direct thing we can do to help Toby and his family.

If you have any other questions, or need any help navigating this process, please don't hesitate to email me at jbauman {at}

Make your appointment now! You'll be glad you did!


1 comment:

Karen said...

Hi Toby and Family,

My name is Karen and I found your blog through Andy Bachman- I've been tremendously moved by your story and check in often to read about Toby's progress and how everyone is doing.

I was so moved in fact, that I went to MSKCC to donate platelets this morning. Unfortunately, there was a complication with my vein and my platelets couldn't be used.

As soon as I'm eligible to donate again I'll be back. Hopefully I'll be able to donate in time for Toby's surgery.

I know you have a lot of people praying for you and your family, and even though I don't know you personally, I'm saying a Mi Sheberach for each of you every day.

And for those who need a little push getting over to donate- it was quite fast and easy (even little tv's to watch while you're donating) Not to mention you'll be doing one of the greatest good deeds a person can do!

Wishing you a Rufuah Shlema Min HaShamayim,

Karen Perolman
New York, NY