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Swords, Iron, Missoula Blood and Pie  RSS feed

 
Cassie Langstraat
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Paul wrote this the other day. It's gonna be published in a bloggy blog soon, but you're mah permies, so you're eyes get to see it first.


First, I must apologize as this is a bit of sour grapes. Airing some
dirty laundry.

At the same time, I'm told I am one of missoula's most popular
bloggers, so maybe this squeaky wheel will squeak a bit louder and,
thus, be more likely to get some grease.

Further, I have some important health information dominantly for older guys.



Since a part of this story involves computers, I wish to point out my
history with computers. In 1991 I created the "Missoula Area
Conferencing System" - sorta like the internet before the internet
became popular. In 1993 I created what became the world's most popular
software for accessing on-line services before the internet became
popular. My career took me to working on all sorts of massive
software projects, including being an architect for the ground systems
for the space craft that takes pictures for google earth. And, to
this day, I manage some big internet forums.

So I've been on the programming end of a lot of big systems.


This story begins with me sitting on my butt, attempting to "work
less". I am watching a BBC show via the internet called "Doc Martin."
In this episode, a woman falls over from exhaustion. Doc Martin
says she has an excess of iron and begins draining her blood. Ta da!
Justification for the old leeches practice!

I'm supposed to be trying to "work less" because I've been feeling a
bit exhausted. And I think back to many months earlier when my doctor
did some blood tests and one of the things mentioned in passing was
that my iron level was high.

I fired up "Doctor Google" and did a bit of research. Yup - there's
the "exhaustion" stuff for iron. And a few other things that seem to
apply. And a note that this is quite common in older guys (maybe we
are evolved to have more sword fights than we actually have nowadays).

So I get the idea of just donating blood to see if I then feel
supercharged. I have donated a lot of blood in the past. I remember
getting a "two gallon pin" at some point. I stopped donating because
the missoula red cross said there was something wrong and I should go
see a doctor. Sunnufabitch! I'm dying! I went and paid the doctor,
paid for the tests, paid the doctor to tell me the test results and
the result was "you're fine - keep giving blood". But I just never
got around to going back. Maybe I was pissy about the false alarm,
but I think it was just that my life got filled with other things and
I forgot about it all.

The blood donation place is no longer on Higgins, but out on Reserve.
Google maps shows they have three locations - it turns out there is
only one. When I did not yet know there was only one, I tried to call
them to say "which of these is correct?" but I ended up going through
the big maze of "press 1 to donate money to the red cross." So I just
had to drive around and see. All three addresses were on Reserve, one
near the interstate, one near Brooks and one near Mullan. Just north
of Mullan is the correct spot.

So i get there and answer all of the questions:

Have you ever paid to have sex?

Have you ever been paid to have sex?

Have you ever had sex in Haiti?

Have you ever had sex in a box?

Have you ever had sex with a fox?

Have you ever had sex with somebody called "Sam-I-Am"?

Did "Sam-I-am" ever pay to have sex?

You don't get a copy of the questions when you leave, so I am trying
to remember the questions. Maybe they don't want you to take the
questions, because you might share the questions with other people and
that could lead to cheating on the test.

I know why they do this, but I think there are much better ways to get
this task done. But, of course, the people that work here don't want
to talk about how to improve their system - they just work with the
system they have.

So I answer all the questions and hand the results over to the nice
woman. I kinda feel like we now have a pretty intimate relationship.
I mean, I shared some seriously private stuff here. In fact, I'm
kinda feeling a bit down that at no point in time did any woman ever
pay me for sex. That would have been pretty cool. I used to be in
pretty great shape. Well, maybe "pretty good shape" or "not horrible
shape." Maybe "okay shape." Maybe "pretty okay shape"?

There was one time when I was in my 20s, a woman asked me out on a
date. She paid for all sorts of fun things that night. She then
wanted to buy me some hooch. Since I don't like the taste of hooch,
she ended up buying me hoochy stuff with umbrellas in it that didn't
taste much like hooch. Once I was a bit wobbly, she revealed her
devious plan to take me home and have sex. Yay! Unfortunately, she
did not calculate in my lack of experience with hooch. So I think the
night ended with me asleep and her being disappointed.

But the Red Cross blood donation center has no question for that. Nor
does it have an essay section under "Have you ever been paid to have
sex?" Or even "On a scaled of zero to ten: have you ever been paid
to have sex?" I would have marked the scale at somewhere around "1.3"
because there once was a woman who parted with money in a feeble
attempt to have sex with me and then the story gets a bit blurry from
there.

Back to the Missoula Red Cross blood donation place and I am handing a
nice woman a document of my embarrassingly boring sex life. I feel a
little like it is only fair that I get to see how she answers the same
questions, but, of course, that is not how things are set up. So I
am sharing my intimate details *AND* the engineer in me has a design
of how this can all be done better, but I know that nobody there
cares.

Then I go into a little room with the woman. She types my name into
the computer and .... look, they still have records about me from
before. So she updates my address and then tells me that I am not
allowed to donate blood.

"Why?"

"I don't know. There is a flag on your account that your are not
allowed to donate blood."

"But that was from ... something like 20 years ago. They sent me a
letter, I went to the doctor and the doctor said it was an error on
the part of red cross."

"There is nothing I can do. But here is a phone number you can call
and talk to the red cross about it."

"But I'm currently at the red cross. Can't I talk to you about it?"

I kinda got the impression that it had something to do with my
privacy. Which seemed a bit silly after my questionnaire about my sex
life. I do like the idea that if somebody has something like AIDS or
Hep-C then it can be a bit more private - talk to somebody in new york
city rather than in missoula. But I know what it is and it is stupid,
so I'm thinking "I hereby give my permission to look at the 'why' and
solve this and move on."

No amount of whining on my part would change anything. So I left.

Calling the number resulted in 45 minutes of talking to somebody where
english was not yet a second language. My name had to be respelled
about seven times. I was told that it was 1994 when I last donated
blood and the thing they told me about was something they don't even
test for anymore. She said the computer would be updated and I would
also be sent a letter just in case the computer in Missoula did not
show the change. (Again, my brain is thinking about a better system -
but I still need to remain quiet).

A month passes and no letter shows up. I go back to the Missoula Red
Cross and am required to answer all of the questions again. Again I
feel a little lame that there have been no new developments in the
past month about getting paid for sex. Of course I know that that
would be a big red flag for them, so it is probably for the best.

Off to the little room again ...

Apparently I am still in "reject" mode. But wait! I thought ahead
and I brought a brand new note from my doctor that says my blood is
excellent for donating. They don't care. Again they tell me to call
the number and speak to red cross. I remind them that I am currently
sitting in red cross. I then suggest that since red cross has an
internal problem, that maybe it would be handy for a person at this
office calls the other office and get things sorted out. "Nope. Go
away."

I suppose I can call the number again. It was 45 minutes last time,
so I am guessing it might be two hours this time. Ug. Why should it
be so hard to donate blood?

I go to google and look for blood donation stuff that is not the red cross.

I end up going to spokane. Oooooo ... fancy. Way better snacks.

I don't like Spokane in general. It reminds me of all the things I
find icky in a city. I love Missoula so much. I could fill a book or
two on how Missoula is awesome and Spokane is lame.

On the other hand, I am being overwhelmed with curiosity: if I donate
blood, will my productivity go up? Will I be so consumed with
productive energy that I just don't have the time for an internet show
like "Doc Martin"?

Driving so far for something so trivial seems like a horrible waste of
fuel and time. But powerful curiosity combined with a prius overcome
these concerns.

The spokane place has the same questions, only the questions are asked
on a device with a camera on it. I did some software development in
2003 (or so) for this type of device. The idea is that the camera
records you filling out the form. If a lawsuit comes up, they can
play back the video complete with what selections were being made on
the device. So if you die and your family says "he didn't know the
risk, so you owe us a million dollars." then the video can be shown
where the person is reading the part that says "do you you know that
if we hack at your innards with sharp things, one of the possible side
effects is ' death ' - right?" And the options include "yes", "tell me
more" or "I would like to talk to somebody about this first." I was
not allowed to add a button that said "Screw all this, I'm going
home." or "If I die, my family will come and get revenge on all of
you."

So I'm being recorded as I am again presented with the question about
whether anybody has ever paid me for sex. I kinda wonder if I check
"yes" if the contraption will then ask questions like "how much?" or
"what sort of stuff did you have to do?" or "We have somebody here in
the office that is also interested in paying for sex."

Over all, the blood donation experience in Spokane was really nice.
The missoula place seemed kinda .... cheap .... compared to the
spokane facility. The spokane facility had a lot of beauty and
professional looking stuff. I remember a huge fish tank, cushy
chairs, a massive snack table with super fancy snacks and drinks. And
they gave me a tshirt. They even had my size (freaky big). The
missoula place had little plastic chairs, and looked like it was as
cheap as legally allowed.

I guess in the Spokane facility I kinda felt like the blood donor is
somewhat revered as something that smells a bit heroic. Maybe
honored, or respected. In Missoula it felt like even if I made it
past the little room, I would be treated like a bag of meat to be
reluctantly processed.

Maybe in Spokane they are super desperate for blood and they have to
roll out the red carpet for donors, or they don't get enough. And
(maybe) in Missoula, they get so many people wanting to donate blood,
that processing these people is something of a hassle. Maybe the
people in the Missoula office are given instructions to discourage
people from donating, because there's just too many people wanting to
donate. This line of thinking makes sense to me because I think
Missoulians are so awesome that they would go donate blood just to
have an excuse to visit and bond while doing a good deed.

(Side note: whenever I need a dose of missoula awesome, I like to go
to the big Ace Hardware at Trempers. I stand and look confused at
something and in two minutes, somebody will offer help - and that
person doesn't even work there. THAT is my favorite example of what
makes missoula freaky awesome.)

And now for the medical results: Immediate, large and positive. I
think my overall productivity went up 40% after just one donation. Of
course, this is purely anecdotal compounded with guesswork, but I do
think that anybody feeling exhausted could give it a try. Before
taking your blood, they do test it to make sure you are not anemic
first.

It is now many months later and the Red Cross still has not sent the
letter they promised, and I don't want to go in to get rejected again.
In the meantime, the place in spokane has called me to say that they
found my blood to be delicious (it is October, so this is a funny
thing to say in October) and they would be happy to have me come by
again. They have all new tshirts, more snacks, lots of locations,
plus a blood mobile. They seemed genuinely interested to any ideas I
might have to interest me in coming over again. Their blood mobile
does come as close as Wallace, Idaho and Kellogg, Idaho.

Related note: I get contacted from time to time by non-profit
organizations that want things that I have. It seems that their
general expectation is that I will donate my time and resources to
them because they are a non-profit. For a non-profit like "Missoula Freecycles", I am glad to do it, nobody over there is getting rich and
when I talk to them, they do massive awesome stuff on a shoestring
budget. For most other non-profits, I get the impression that I am
being contacted by somebody that is getting paid a professional wage.
I just feel that the person that is earning that professional wage is
making more money than me - and so that person is profiting while
waving the "non-profit" flag. So I kinda feel like the non-profit
should pay for stuff just like anybody else. Unless, of course, they
are super awesome like Missoula Freecycles. So, just now I googled
"how much does the Red Cross CEO get paid?" Answer: More than a
million dollars per year. And there are other people working for the
Red Cross that get paid more than a half million per year. I'm all
for people getting a professional wage while working for a non-profit
- I just feel weird that they call it a "non-profit" while there are
people profiting, and then the people profiting are asking me to give
them stuff for free. But I get the impression that I might be the
only person in the world that feels this odd "profit with non profit"
thing.

One other weird perspective: I kinda think that the Red Cross blood
thing is sorta like eating at some lame chain restaurant, and the one
in Spokane is a bit more like eating at a really nice local
restaurant.

I feel like Missoula is where all the awesome stuff is, and spokane is
where all the sub standard stuff is. So I feel like there was some
sort of mixup in blood donation stuff.

I've donated more than two gallons of blood to the missoula red cross,
but their own internal broken-ness has dictated they don't want my
blood anymore.

I've donated one pint to the inland northwest blood center in spokane,
and they were, in comparison, freaky awesome.

I wish there was something as nice as the INBC in Missoula.

I also wish for a lovely piece of pie, and to win the lottery. And I
wish for more wishes.
 
Mike Cantrell
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That was fun and interesting even for somebody very far from Missoula.
 
Richard Kutscher
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This is strange, odd, and weird all in one....

I'm like Paul yet again, and it's freaky scary...

I too have donated over 2 gallons of blood to the red cross, then got it rejected one time and haven't been back since..... I started donating during high school and continued a little afterwards, had fun doing it, and was very happy to help out At that time I wasn't overly concerned if they profited as Red Cross does some pretty decent outreach work..

After this I've had my blood tested quite a few times, such as during my motorcycle accident, and everything came up clean and fertile... Who woulda thunk. Nothing bad, nothing horrible, just normal blood.. O pos by the way.

While I haven't followed up with the Red Cross, I share the sentiments of Paul exactly in why do they make things so hard to do... Could fill out a form online, scan copy of doctor's blood results, or give them doctor's information, and submit. Not really all that hard, nor all that expensive.... And it's only one possible solution.
 
nancy sutton
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Very interesting and entertaining, Paul, as usual. I think part of why Missoula is awesome and Spokane may not be is that Missoula is a college town of around 66K, and Spokane is not, w/ pop. of around 200K, i.e., population that is younger, w/ more free time, thinkers, still optimistic, fewer responsibilites etc.
Also, Spokane is politically conservative, and I suspect Missoula is not. There are reasons ;)

I've often wondered why sparsely populated rural areas are so conservative, and cities are more liberal. Hmmmm.....maybe it is the higher income levels? or the higher educational levels? or ??? Parisians were mostly for the Revolution, while the provincials were not... etc., etc.

The disparity in population size, alone, may also influence Red Cross' blood center funding ... lot more blood in Spokane ... and hospitals, maybe? ;)

BTW, there is a condition called hemachromatosis (or somesuch), i.e., too much iron, often affecting post menopausal women, that is serious. I plan on donating again, to get a hematocrit test. Last time I was too near anemic for them to take my blood.. but that was 15 yrs ago... nothing stays the same!
 
Julia Winter
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I'm not allowed to donate blood because I lived in London, England in 1987-1988, and thus I might have mad cow disease.

Last I checked, this has led to a lifetime ban.

I guess I'll just have to hope I don't have REALLY slow developing prions in my brain!
 
Jocelyn Campbell
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For anyone interested in more about hemochromatosis, this article is an excellent one: http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2003/06/04/iron-absorption.aspx.

Researchers have gained new insights into the most common inherited disease in the Western world--hemochromatosis. The condition affects about one in every 250 people and can be fatal if left untreated.

Normally, when the body has enough iron, the cells stop absorbing it from food and if there is too little iron, they absorb more. If this system breaks down, a person can absorb too much iron from the diet, leading to hemochromatosis (iron overload).


 
paul wheaton
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I gave blood again. This time when they tested my iron and told me the number, I asked if they had the numbers from the previous times. Yes!

These are "HGB"

august: 16.7

october: 15.7

december: 15.2

I asked "what numbers do you normally see for guys?" and she said "13, 14 or 15." I then grilled her a bit more and found out that she might see a 15 once a day and that most guys are 14. A few 13s a day for guys, but 13s are usually women.



And here is an update on my health. Before doing this I felt exhausted. Exhausted is definitely the right word. And even if I didn't do anything exhausting, I still felt exhausted. If there was a knob on me that said "exhaustion", it may have been set between 7 and 8 before. All day, every day. And now .... I think it has been turned down to about 2. I think this comes from multiple factors, but 60% of it ... maybe 65% of it, is probably ... I think ... maybe ... from the blood donation thing.

I hope that by sharing this, and exposing something that I should probably keep private, that other folks might benefit.

 
Julia Winter
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Well, it's coming down - that's good! I'm sorry you have to travel to donate blood at a friendly place, but I'm glad you are doing it.

Apparently you need to be doing more warfare, or sloppy carpentry work, or somesuch. I like that you are sharing your super iron rich blood with people who need it. Most people who are transfused are very low, so super rich blood is a plus! It's a win/win.
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