An Unexpected Result

I have a dear friend whose daughter donates blood on a regular basis. She’s just a beautiful person inside and out! In fact, she’s such a regular that the Red Cross asked her if she would consider donating platelets. Naturally she agreed and scheduled an appointment.

Towards the end of the process she had a slight mishap. Someone dropped something directly behind her and because she was startled, she jerked her arm where the needle was inserted. Suddenly her left bicep swelled up like a ballon. She wasn’t in pain and there was minimal bruising that night. But in the days that followed her arm looked like this!

When my friend showed me the pictures, I was stunned. That night during dinner I asked our Dinner Table Doctor why she would have so much bruising from such little movement and he gave me the lowdown:

First of all, some background on donating platelets: it is more time-consuming than donating blood. The entire process takes about three hours, and takes place at an official Red Cross Center, so it requires an appointment. Blood is drawn out of one arm and goes into a machine called a blood cell separator where the platelets are removed. Then the remaining blood components go back into your other arm. Platelet donations are essential for cancer patients, people with chronic diseases, and people with traumatic injuries. According to the Red Cross, someone needs platelets every 15 seconds.

In this particular case, the slight jostling of her arm allowed a small amount of blood to enter under the layer of skin in her arm. Even a small amount can rapidly spread out, seeming like more. DTD described it like spilling a small cup of water on a mattress under a sheet. The water would spread out between the layers. That’s why something like a staph infection can spread up your arm rapidly from one small cut. Obviously there was no danger of an infection in this case, since this was a sterile and controlled environment.

Please don’t let this post deter you from the life-saving process of donating platelets or even blood. The woman in the pictures still gives blood regularly and plans on donating platelets again. Her experience was just a fluke which provided some great dinner conversation!

For more information about donating platelets, check out my source (other than my DTD) The American Red Cross at

  1. I had the same thing happen at OU when I had to sell plasma on the regular to get groceries. Mine even leaked out of the insertion site for a bit after. Never deterred me from doing it again or donating every 8 weeks for years afterwards!


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