First off, I have to admit that I’m a total coward about donating blood. I tried to donate once, and I passed out when they did the finger stick, and they asked me not to come back “for several years.”
This is part of what helped me get through COVID-19. I had this fantasy that I would spiritually redeem myself by finally donating convalescent plasma, and the fantasy would help me fight my fear.
But then reality hit.
The first problem was how long it took to get better.
When I first got sick, I thought I would go through hell for five days and then I’d basically be over it. I kept seeing pictures of doctors and nurses already back at work after they had it. Okay cool. Back in April, everyone believed that if you got COVID, you got immunity, and you were safe to go out and help other people who had it.
At least once an hour, I would comfort myself by thinking about how safe I would feel once I got better. I’d think about how I could leave our apartment. I’d think about helping other sick people. I’d actually make myself cry, picturing myself doing someone else’s laundry and bringing them soup.
When I thought about donating plasma and potentially helping four people at once, it about did me in.
I really, really wanted all that to happen. It gave me hope like nothing else. To think: there could be a little army of healthy people helping everyone pull through.
But then it just kept dragging on and on and on.
I was sick for weeks, and I felt like I was truly dying, and when I got through the gate I was really just a shell of my former self.
Quite honestly, almost six months later I still haven’t made it past 85%, and that was only for a couple of weeks. I am still occasionally waking in the middle of the night shaking with cold, even under a duvet with a nighttime low of 68 F. My eyelid is still twitching and sometimes my hands still tremble when I’m tired. Sometimes my heart still pounds for no obvious reason.
I still planned to do it, though. I was still totally going to go in and donate convalescent plasma. I wanted to help people, and I wanted to confront my demons. I also figured it would be the best way to get an antibody test.
My husband is still uncertain about whether he really got exposed or not, which makes him worried for himself, and he’d really like to get his antibodies checked too. He has donated plasma before, because unlike me he is quite brave, so that part doesn’t bother him. We were going to go in as a team.
I did some checking. I found that there were a few different places where we could donate. We could also donate our data and be part of various health studies.
Then it turned out there were some rules. The first was that you are supposed to have tested positive for COVID-19. I wasn’t sure about that one, because I was diagnosed as presumptive positive but I wasn’t able to get a test before I had cleared the infection. Of course my plasma would be valuable under any circumstances, so it was still a good idea to donate.
Then there was a rule that you couldn’t have any medication in your system. I was on antibiotics for the opportunistic bacterial infection that attacked me just as I was clearing COVID. Definitely would have to wait until that was gone.
Then they wanted 30 days with no symptoms. (Now I think it’s 14).
That’s what wound up doing me in. I just couldn’t get there. As a matter of fact, I haven’t yet made it a week without some weird health issue or other.
What it comes down to is that I don’t think whatever is or is not in my blood would necessarily help someone else’s immunity. It doesn’t seem to be doing me all that much good!
I’m lucky in most ways. I just turned 45 - that’s it, that’s the tweet - and I’m doing all right. I still have 20/20 vision. My cholesterol is 150 and my blood pressure, blood glucose, etc are all right on target. I’m graced with a cast-iron stomach and decades of reliable digestion. My doctor (before COVID) told me, “Whatever you’re doing, keep doing it.”
It’s just that, between March and May 2020, I suddenly started having heart palpitations and serious concerns that I might be having a stroke.
Now, I believe in my body’s innate capacity to heal. Every time I watch a cut gradually fade away I marvel at it all over again. I even cut my eyeball a couple years back, and that healed within days. Just because a virus played Pac-Man in my cells does not mean the damage is permanent. I believe it takes time, rest and sleep and lots of water and cruciferous vegetables.
(And antibiotics and modern pharma, as advised by a mainstream medical professional).
Alas, though, I don’t think I am healing fast enough for my convalescent plasma to be all that useful. There is still a lot of research to be done on this as a treatment, believe it or not, even after a century of speculation and trials. It looks like there is a limited time window, though, for a recovering person’s blood to contain the magic of convalescent plasma.
Also I am still recovering from the case of pneumonia that I got for my birthday.
I mean seriously. I’m not sure whether this saga will ever end. I’d rather that my life is no longer defined by a stupid, pointless disease that I contracted in the dumbest possible way. It’s making me focus inward and inward, trying to heal myself and get myself back to normal, which is boring in the extreme. There is nothing nearly as satisfying in “self-care” as there is in the selfless care for others in need.
Are you braver than I am? Are you tough enough to have a nurse put a little needle in your finger without fainting dead away? Do you have it in you to share that much of yourself? If so, I envy you, and I feel really small in comparison. It haunts me that nothing I will ever do will be quite as charitable as donating blood. I wish that I can be strong enough to try it again one day.
In the meantime, maybe someone with a big heart will think of me and make the call, do the thing that I can’t yet do. Save someone’s life, maybe.
I've been working with chronic disorganization, squalor, and hoarding for over 20 years. I'm also a marathon runner who was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and thyroid disease 17 years ago.
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