The only major preparation I remember doing for my impending scoliosis surgery was to have my own blood available for transfusion. Blood loss during scoliosis surgery can be quite extensive and often requires the need of transfusions to replenish what is lost during the procedure.
To make the whole process easier, my surgeon suggested that I have my own blood stored for the surgery. This is called preoperative autologous donation and differs from the typical allogeneic donation.
Criteria for regular donation requires the donor to be at least 16 years old and weigh a minimum of 110 lbs. As an autologous donor, I was only 12 years old and weighed less than the minimum weight limit. However, since this was for my own surgery, my surgeon approved the order and I was able to self-donate my whole blood! Pretty cool, eh?
I don’t remember it being a fun process and it was actually quite uncomfortable. I donated a pint of blood twice, eight weeks apart. My parents and I traveled to our nearest blood donation center, which was United Blood Services at the time (now Vitalant). The blood collection center was inviting and the staff very friendly! The center had various juices, cookies, and other refreshments available for donors to help boost fluids lost during the donation process itself. It appeared very inviting to a 12 year old, but I was nervous and didn’t eat or drink much beforehand.
The donation chairs were very comfortable and I was given a ball to squeeze after the catheter was placed and the donation was underway. After what seemed like an eternity (probably 10-15 minutes), the process was over, the catheter removed, my elbow wrapped in a bandage, blood taken away for storage, and I was good to go! Actually, I was required to sit and rest for about 15 minutes afterwards to make sure I felt okay. I sipped some juice, had a cookie, and felt generally fine. Upon standing to leave, my legs immediately felt weak, I got hot, I felt nauseous, and my vision and hearing were slowly fading away. I never felt that badly in my entire life and rushed into the bathroom wondering what was going on. I sat on a toilet in an empty stall and chewed toilet paper. Yes, you heard that right. Chewing toilet paper seemed to help alleviate my distress!
My mother, of course, was concerned and stayed with me in the bathroom, handing me clean, moistened (with water) TP and paper towels, until I started feeling better. After about 10 minutes, my vision and hearing gradually returned and I felt well enough to leave the donation center and head home. Of course, I didn’t realize that I nearly fainted due to blood loss and those were the symptoms I was experiencing (horrible feeling, by the way).
The second time I donated blood, I made sure to follow the recommendations and stayed hydrated throughout the entire process. I drank juice, ate cookies, and rested before, during, and after the procedure. It worked like a charm and I did not feel any hint of fainting that time 🙂 Yay!
Advice I received from United Blood Services ~1997 after donating included:
- Enjoy light refreshments and remain in the refreshment area for at least 15 minutes after donating blood
- Drink plenty of nonalcoholic fluids after
- Make sure your next meal is a hearty one
- Leave the bandage on for at least 4 hours
- If bleeding occurs, raise your arm and apply pressure to the bandage for at least 5 minutes
- Avoid heavy lifting and strenuous exercise today
- If you feel faint or dizzy, immediately lie down or sit down and put your head between your knees
- Avoid activities that may present a hazard to you or others if you feel weak, dizzy or lightheaded
Thankfully, I had no further complications and I remained healthy before my surgery. My parents were relieved that I had my own blood stored for when I needed it. Oh, and I no longer needed to wear my brace. It was strange attending school without it.
Tune in next time for surgery day!