Archive for March, 2005

Waddaya Want? Blood????

Thursday, March 3rd, 2005

I’ve been giving blood semi-regularly ever since college (14 years or so…), and I did so again yesterday. This time they had something new, however, called the ALYX system, and I thought it was really pretty amazing. This thing will save a lot of lives.

Normally, I give whole blood, which is extremely straightforward — they stick a tube in a vein, and your body pumps blood down the tube until the bag is full. For years there has been a different procedure wherein the donor donates platelets, which are just part of the blood and used in certain procedures. The give-and-take here is that whole blood has the red blood cells, which in medical terms are the most useful part of the blood, but platelet donors can give more. I’ve seen people donate platelets, and compared to whole blood donation it’s a major ordeal — you have two needles, one in each arm. The blood goes out one tube, into a big machine that uses a centrifuge to separate the platelets out, and then uses the other tube to pump the remainder back in the other arm. It takes about two hours, (whole blood takes about 15-20 minutes) and because the blood being separated cools down when it’s in the machine, you have room-temperature blood being pumped back into you for that two hours, which cools down the body. A man sitting across from me yesterday undergoing this was covered with a heating pad to alleviate this.

The ALYX system is similar in concept to the platelet donation, but more advanced and much easier (and only takes about 30 minutes). They use one needle, and it’s actually a smaller needle than with whole blood donation, so it’s less of a jab when the stick it in (and after a minute or so, I literally could not feel that there was a needle in my arm!). The tube goes to a machine, which draws some blood out, separates out the red blood cells, and then pumps the remainder, along with some saline, back in through the same tube. This goes through about five out/in cycles, (because drawing that much blood out of you without putting some back would be really bad for the donor), the end result of which is that I have given the equivalent of two pints of the most important part of the blood — twice as much as with whole blood donation.

There were a few oddities relative to whole blood donation. Every once in a while, during a draw cycle, it would suddenly feel as though the needle was vibrating! This was not painful in the least, mind you, but it was weird — it felt like a cel phone on silent vibrate, but inside my arm. I asked the nurse and she explained it thus: With whole blood, you body and gravity is doing the work of drawing the blood out and into the bag. With this system the machine is actually creating a suction to draw it out, and sometimes the vein closes and pinches against the end of the needle. The machine detects that this has happened and immediately stops drawing, and the vibrating that I’m feeling is my vein popping back open.

The other difference was that after a while, when it was putting blood back in, my arm would feel cold — this increased slowly as each successive cycle went by. For the most part it felt sort of like a cold compress in my bicep. (As with platelet donation, this was being caused by cooled blood and room-temperature saline being pumped into me). During the last return cycle, it extended from my elbow up to my shoulder, and my body responded by shivering slightly. Just as the whole process was finishing, I started shivering all over, and felt very chilly. There were no other issues and I just went and put my jacket on and warmed back up (though some hot tea would not have been turned down!) The unusual part was that I had been chilled from the inside, and the feeling was more persistent than if I had gone outside for a couple minutes and gotten cold that way.

Overall, I would certainly do this procedure again the next time I donate. The needle is significantly more comfortable than that used with a normal whole blood donation (though that may be due to that fact that, according to the nurse, I have narrow veins), and the only difficulty was the chill at the end — the nurse said mine were a lot stronger than with most people. I’ll just have to request one of those heating pads and I should be fine.

(Disclaimer: I don’t own stock in the company [NYSE: BAX], but if they make more stuff this good, I may just consider buying it.)

Site Maintenance

Thursday, March 3rd, 2005

I recently got the following in comments:

…I wish your blog had an RSS or Atom feed, so I could subscribe to it via bloglines or via my RSS reader, so that I get magically notified when you update it.

I’ve been looking into other blog software, specifically WordPress, but my current hosting company has an older non-supported version of PHP on their servers. I’m looking into switching hosts (who shall remain nameless in the face of impending loss of customer), which will allow me to switch to WordPress, which will in turn allow me to implement such clever features as RSS and the ever useful Comment Spam (*hiss* *spit*) blockers.

This all might happen as early as this weekend.


*ahem* Uh, maybe you should just ignore that last part.

De facto Socialism

Tuesday, March 1st, 2005

A post from last month has elicited a bit of response and discussion, and I felt my reply warranted a new post, as it furthers the discussion significantly. I was discussing what I felt was the improper power employers are now wielding in ways that are invasive in people’s lives, citing recent news stories about companies that are firing people who smoke on or off the job. Pertinent replies said:

Ever hear of employment “at will”? You can be fired for not wearing the right color tie, let alone lighting up on your break. It’s not a gross invasion of privacy and precursor to socialized reform. It’s called a free market, buddy. Hire whoever the hell you want.[…]

You have the freedom to hire a non-smoking babysitter. You have the freedom to split rent with a non-smoking roommate. You have the freedom to hire a non-smoking employee. And, yes, you have the freedom to smoke if you want to. Nonetheless, employers and taxpayers should not have to pay for those who voluntarily self inflict the health cost burden. It is all about freedom of choice.

Okay, here’s one for you:

There are studies that suggest that religious people live happier and healthier lives. Should a company be able to refuse to hire people they deem not religious enough (or the “wrong” religion) by citing health care costs?

We may have just discovered a loophole around non-discrimination laws. Conjure up a study that says *x-race* is on average healthier that *y-race*, and then refuse to hire anyone of *y-race*. Hey, man, health care costs and all….

Regarding roomates — discrimination law doesn’t (and can’t) apply to personal relationships (“She said she won’t go out with me because she doesn’t date black people. I’m suing!”). Choosing a roommate directly affects you personally — you are directly exposing yourself to whatever the hell they do. I might refuse a roommate because I don’t like their taste in music; should an employer be able to fire you because you listen to country music in your car?

Of course, we’ve gotten far off the course here, and perhaps my initial post emphasised the wrong point: the argument I’m making is basically in this quote:

Ultimately, the problem here is not that these organizations want to save money — any business wants to do that. The problem is that health care should never have become so socialized in the first place. This gross invasion of privacy is the natural extension of ‘collective’ systems.

The point really being that, in a sense the companies do have a legitimate financial argument, but only because government interference long ago started a snowballing effect (helped along by out-of-control lawsuits and such) that has lead to health care being practically unaffordable to individuals, which in turn has transformed it into a de facto socialized system.

Is it possible to get by without company provided health benefits? Sure, it’s possible — but increasingly difficult for “Joe Average”, and a single illness can quickly lead to bankruptcy.

(I’m suddenly reminded of colleges being forced to follow all sorts of invasive Federal controls. They don’t technically have to, but avoiding doing so is so prohibitively difficult and expensive that only one in the entire country*, Hillsdale College, actually manages to avoid these controls. Though not technically a requirement, it is effectively so.)

What we truly need is to break the hold that this invasive socialized system has on our society. We are starting to see steps toward that, some coming from government (Bush’s proposed caps on malpractice lawsuits), and some coming from the populace (the growing number of doctors who, at huge personal risk, practice without malpractice insurance), but whether these are the right course, or whether they will be effective, remains to be seen.

Update 29 April 2005: The Hillsdale link has been updated, and a footnote added.

Update 5 May 2005: Further discussion in Privacy Wars III: Revenge of the Smokers on this site.

*That may not quite be true. Hillsdale claims, in the (truly excellent) article linked above, that “the colleges that do not depend heavily upon federal taxpayer funds can be counted on a few fingers.”