So I went somewhere today.
To donate blood!
I've never done it before. It's not that I didn't want to. It just wasn't ever convenient, and then I had all kinds of excuses like tattoos and recent international travel.
And also I was kind of scared.
But now I think being in medical school has really made me a lot more aware (shocked actually) about the need for blood. And so I decided to get over the inconvenience and the nervousness and my roommate Molly who's a blood-donating rockstar made us an appointment and off we went.
So I got my little fingerstick to check my hematocrit and make sure I have enough red blood cells and my blood is dense enough to handle the donation.
My hematocrit was only 35, but the requirement for donation is 38.
Making a rough calculation, that puts my hemoglobin at 11.6, which in really just a baby anemia. I have a complete blood count from a couple years ago when all us students got to practice blood draws and analysis. It showed that my hematocrit was 38.9 back then, so I know it shouldn't be impossible to get it back up.
I'm pretty bummed about it, but I'm going to start being more conscious of my iron intake, start a supplement, and I learned a couple useful things relevant to me as a vegan/vegetarian to which I'd never paid attention before:
- Plant-based iron is all of a nonheme type and is harder to absorb than heme iron, which makes up 40% of the iron found in meat. That doesn't mean I need to eat meat, it just means I need to help my body absorb the iron better.
- Vitamin C helps the body absorb iron. I'm thinking I could time my iron supplement with an orange.
- Sodas, coffee, iced tea etc. sipped along with meals can inhibit the absorption, so I could try to separate my morning coffee from the food a little more. Though really that's not very likely, because my morning time's all really pretty short.
So I'm still going to try to donate again in a while.
And that's the story of how I didn't give blood today.