20 September 2008

Blood Donor

S and I went to the Blood Donor Clinic today to...well...donate blood :) S's doctor is pretty convinced he has a genetic disorder called hemochromatosis which basically means his body doesn't dispose of excess iron. Instead he stores as much as possible in his bone marrow and then when there is no other choice, his body will store the iron in his organs. Oh yeah, that's bad. One of the treatments for it is bloodletting. I heard that and wondered what century we live in.

We went through the usual screening process and S was able to donate but I was rejected. I wasn't turned away because of some weird recent sexual past (they ask some very intrusive questions) but because I take iron supplements.

Where S has waaaay too much iron in his blood, I have far too little. I was hallucinating at work (just seeing things moving that were indeed stationary, nothing too weird), feeling dizzy and lightheaded all the time and so extremely tired. I went to my doctor for regular bloodwork and was told my ferritin levels were low. Ferritin is the iron stored in your bone marrow, haemoglobin is the iron carried around in your blood for energy. My ferritin level was 11, S's was 1700. Normal is 15-300. I was given supplements and told to take them twice a day. Frustratingly, you can't take them with dairy, grains or protein. So it's two hours after eating and one hour before eating. For a while I was cheating and eating anyway, but I found I could actually not function well at all. So I relented and take them on an empty stomach. Luckily I have a sturdy stomach so they don't bother me at all, I just don't like to time when I can eat.

I suppose I knew somewhere in the back of my mind (maybe in the 'denial' storage area) that if I'm on supplements then they won't take my blood. And they won't. The nurse said it was because my body needs the iron and as much as they need my blood, my body needs it more. So I can't donate until I'm off the supplements and S will probably have to donate as often as possible. The sucky thing is that if S has to donate more often than every 56 days he will have to go to the hospital to do it, and they just discard the blood there. They don't have the same screening process that the Donor Clinic has so they can't be sure of it's purity. Still, if he can get rid of blood on a regular enough basis and get his iron to a more normal level, then maybe he can donate every 56 days and it will be enough.

I still don't know what's causing my iron to be so low, it wasn't my original doctor who started the process in motion and I haven't been vigilant in returning. I just buy over-the-counter supplements for now. I suspect the cause is extreme physical activity as my haemoglobin was normal. That means my body is pulling the iron storage out of the marrow to use in daily activity because I'm regularly pushing my body past it's capabilities. Yes, this could be stopped with an office job or something, but I really like my job and don't want to quit. I like running my fiefdom, lifting heavy things and being active. And being around really excellent cakes :)

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