Should Triathletes Give Blood? Of Course!
“For every complex problem, there is an uncomplicated answer; neat, simple and wrong.” H.L. Menken
HuliSue’s is a terrific barbecue place in Kamuela, HI when you find yourself north of Kona some day. If you ordered a beef sandwich, you’d get plenty of iron to help make red blood cells. Ah, but then what do you do with those red cells? Keep ’em? Donate a few to someone who might really need them?
Well, I’m prejudiced. I recently donated my 100th unit of blood to Virginia Blood Services. If you realize that when a “pint” comes out of your veins, only about a third of it is blood cells, the other two thirds being plasma. The fluid portion will be replaced in your body in a couple hours but it will take the bone marrow about 3 weeks to restore the RBC’s. Each person’s reaction is different, and changes from donation to donation. One may have to reduce the intensity of work outs for a short time, and probably would cease donations a month to 6 weeks before an important race, or the racing season in general. That said, platelet need is always in season, requires no loss of red cells (or oxygen carrying capacity), and can be done virtually any time in the year.
There are lots of reasons not to give blood…a needle stick, a few days of non-maximal training, rumors from the uninformed, etc. But, there’s never an over abundance of blood, it’s needed for patients getting dialysis, heart surgery, cancer and trauma victims, etc. Heck, Lance might have even needed a transfusion following his orchiectomy and subsequent chemo.
Lastly, who among you hasn’t had a bike crash? One day, the need might be yours.
John Post, MD