Blood Centers That Polycythemia Vera Patients Can Use

Where to go for Therapeutic Phlebotomy

As a Polycythemia Vera patient, you can not give blood to the Red Cross.  You can go to blood centers where they will accept blood from a PV patient for what is referred to as “therapeutic phlebotomy”.  You will need to check with the respective blood center in your area.  Many of the donor centers offer the service as a free community service.  Here are a few resources to get you started.

A Personal Perspective

Even with insurance, when I did NOT see the hematologist, my doctors office billed me $110 for a phlebotomy and CBC (blood test).  I asked if I could have a “mini-consultation” with the doctor medical_2008015253-1113int.epsand revert to my normal co-pay which was $40. The front desk and business office personnel informed me “this was not possible.”  It was only after complaining “rather loudly” to my doctor that I could no longer afford the $100+ phlebotomy every 6-8 weeks or so (on top of an escalating monthly insurance bill), that he wrote me a prescription for “therapeutic phlebotomy”.

This led me to the wonderful folks at Community Blood Center of the Carolinas.  They test my hemoglobin with a quick finger stick, slide sample and come back with immediate results from the basic blood analyzer. Their phlebotomy technicians were outstanding, never requiring to poke me with multiple sticks.  This may be a beneficial option for some folks, although you do loose the detail provided by a CBC.  I usually made sure to visit the doctor’s office and get a CBC before going to the community blood center. Drop me a note if you have any questions on this option.

Tips for a successful PHLEBOTOMY

I’ve always hated needles, and the fact is that large ones are required for our phlebotomies because our blood is thick.  I’ve found that the needle doesn’t hurt so much as it is an odd sensation that is intense for just a couple of seconds.

It helps when you realize that this procedure is helping to keep you healthy.  It’s not an option, it’s a lifesaver!  Over time, it just becomes a part of your life.  The following are some tips that work for me and for others:

  • Take a beverage like water, juice or Gatorade with you to drink during the procedure.
  • Drink plenty of water a couple of days before your phlebotomy so you are well-hydrated.
  • Prior to your procedure, avoid caffeinated beverages such as coffee as they are a diuretic.
  • Eat breakfast beforehand.  A breakfast rich in protein is best.
  • If needed, take an Ativan or mild form of tranquilizer before the procedure.
  • Take a friend with you.
  • Do some exercise before your procedure to get your blood flowing.
  • Ask if the entry area can be numbed by the technician, or administer Emla or other numbing cream (topical anesthetic) yourself a half-hour before your procedure.
  • Here are phlebotomy tips and tricks for nurses.
  • Don’t watch.
  • Put on a short sleeve or loose-fitting shirt to allow easy access to your arms.
  • Therapeutic Phlebotomy Techniques – A Patient’s View (hemochromatosis patients may require regular phlebs, just like PVers)

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