Like most writers, I am always looking for ways to avoid writing, so the poster in the Chapel Hill Public Library really seized my eye: Volunteer Work You Can Do Lying Down! Watch a movie, save a life. Free snacks! UNC Hospitals Platelet Donor Program.
Lying down for two hours watching movies and eating snacks sounded like heaven, so I called for an appointment. Josh Troop, one of the donor recruiters, explained that platelets are the part of blood that makes it clot. They are used to treat cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy and for people who have had bone-marrow transplants. They are essential, he said, and always in short supply. Yes, I said, but what kind of snacks?
When I went in for my first appointment, I was given a form to fill out. “Have you ever donated blood using a different name? Have you snorted cocaine? Have you had syphillis, gonorrhea, a brain-covering graft, babesiosis, rabies? Have you been in prison? Lived in Africa? Taken money or drugs for sex? Given money or drugs for sex? Had a tattoo or body piercing?” Checking off “no” to most of the questions made me feel I had led a rather tame life.
After my blood pressure, temperature, pulse and hemoglobin had been checked, I chose a movie (Steel Magnolias), stretched out on a padded chaise longue, and settled back to weep happily over the film while munching pretzels and sipping Coke.
Less than two hours later, I was done, and my arm was wrapped in a dramatic crisscross of bright blue tape. The nurse, Annette Gross, told me not to skip any meals or do any heavy lifting, and I tried to look like the kind of person who would. Everyone thanked me profusely. Annette beamed at me. “Most people have a platelet count under 200,” she said, “but you’re a 360. That’s terrific!” “You’re what we call a ‘platelet pig!’”
I sailed proudly home. Others may be rich, powerful, famous, thin, young or beautiful, but do I care? I have a high platelet count. I’m a 360! I am a Platelet Pig.