Why did I have a weird episode three days after giving blood?
September 8, 2015 8:59 PM   Subscribe

I donated blood and platelets Saturday morning and felt light-headed once or twice Sunday, fine yesterday, and then this morning I suddenly got double vision and had trouble talking/walking/processing things from about 8:30 to noon. After that I felt better, and now I feel mostly fine. What happened?

I've been donating blood every 8 weeks for several years and Saturday was the fourth time I've donated blood and platelets at the same time. (I'm O- and have a platelet count of 350,000-ish, so the donation center loves me.) It takes me a little longer to recover after the RBC/platelet donations than it does for just red cells, but it's only the difference between walking out of there with a bounce in my step and feeling woozy and sitting for 30 minutes. I usually recover within a few hours.

This morning around 8:30am I stood up after sitting for an hour and I started to get dizzy. My vision faded/blurred the way it does when you stand up too fast. When the moment passed, though, I was still light-headed and suddenly I had double vision. Then I was having a little trouble walking steadily (which lasted about an hour after the double-vision later subsided), and then when I started doing actual work (NO idea why I stayed at work other than I drove and obvs. I wasn't about to drive home) I was having a little trouble getting words out - tripping over them a bit, talking slower than usual, and forgetting what I was talking about. I realized this when I l was leaving a voicemail and couldn't remember the name of the person the call was regarding and then it took me a full five seconds of silence to remember my work phone number: "you can reach me at...[five seconds]...[number]." I decided to stay off the phones for a while. I was hitting extra keys when I typed even after my vision came back.

The double-vision went away after an hour but the problems talking, typing and thinking stayed until just before noon. In fact, around 11:30am an emergency came my way and I knocked out a really creative solution on the spot, one that was unusually clever even if I had been operating normally. As the day went on I started to feel more and more normal, did my normal job duties fine, and I'm probably operating at 88% now. Had I not recently given blood I would have immediately sought medical assistance. If the double vision hadn't faded in an hour I would have sought medical assistance. But everything cleared up.

I have been eating regularly since Saturday and I got 6 hours of sleep last night - not awesome but not awful. I'm in my early 30s, female, 155 lbs. and 5'11", so not at all on the low end of the size requirements for donation eligibility. Day-to-day my blood pressure errs on the lower side of normal and I'd say get a little dizzy 2 out of every 10 times I stand up. That's happened since childhood though and doctors have never worried when I tell them.

I've never had an episode like this before. What the hell happened? Was this related to giving blood?
posted by good lorneing to Health & Fitness (10 answers total)
Eh, probably a combination of factors, but it certainly sounds like a low blood pressure episode plus a little anemia. Make sure you're hydrating and getting plenty of iron-y greens.

(Getting old sucks, sorry.)
posted by Lyn Never at 9:21 PM on September 8, 2015

IANAD TINMA etc. That sounds to me like waking up dehydrated and hungry (the normal state after a night's sleep), having your activity level outstrip your stocked fluid and calories, then gradually recovering. If it happens again, absent blood donation, I'd worry, but otherwise I'd assume it was just everything got a little lower than usual because you're a pint down.
posted by gingerest at 9:35 PM on September 8, 2015 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I am not a doctor or anything like one, but your description of the circumstances reminds me of a friend of mine when she had a TIA. What particularly sticks out to me is when you say you had no idea why you stayed at work; my friend had lost half of her vision and couldn't remember half her words but was so determined to go to work that she talked her husband into driving her.

It sounds like it's resolved, but given how closely the symptoms match, I'd recommend calling your doctor and seeing if they'd want you to come in to be evaluated.
posted by KathrynT at 11:20 PM on September 8, 2015 [7 favorites]

I spend a lot of time with seriously low blood pressure and I've never had an episode like you describe. I second KathrynT -- not a doctor, but the first thing that came to mind was TIA and if it were me I'd definitely call my doctor and talk to them about whether to come in.
posted by katemonster at 11:26 PM on September 8, 2015 [1 favorite]

So when I had a similar episode that affected vision AND speech at the same time, my doctor (NYD) said that indicated it was not a stroke or TIA as vision and speech are on two sides of the brain implying not a blood flow blockage issue that would typically only affect one side. The consensus was unusually-presenting migraines. Migraines can be worse when dehydrated, not sure how long dehydration can last after a blood/platelet donation.
posted by RoadScholar at 5:23 AM on September 9, 2015

Best answer: Oh my gosh! Almost this exact thing happened to me a few weeks ago, minus the blood donation. The first time it happened, I was driving and had a panic attack to round out the experience. It was terrifying!

My doctor first diagnosed me with Benign Positional Vertigo, because my eyes were twitching back and forth when she tested me a few days later. Then with orthostatic hypotension (low blood pressure, especially when standing up). A couple of weeks of lessening but still present episodes, and we collectively came to the conclusion that it was probably atypically presenting migraine/vestibular migraine. For what it's worth, after about two weeks I felt safe to drive again, and I only intermittently feel slightly "off" this week, hardly impacted at all.

Here's what I did, on the advice of the doctor:
- drink lots of water and a bit of Gatorade/electrolyte replacement (to boost blood pressure)
- take a sinus medication (Sudafed made a difference for me) and allergy meds (YMMV as to whether this is applicable for you)
- drink a bit of caffeine (when my episode recurred a few days later, it was paired with a blistering headache and fatigue)
- and my doctor didn't suggest this, but yeah, adding a multivitamin or eating a little extra heathy sure wouldn't hurt if it's related to the blood donation.
- up next for me is ophthalmologist and potentially neurologist appointments, but that's because it lasted quite a long time for me and is looking like maybe migraines.

Good luck, and I hope you continue to feel much better.
posted by instamatic at 6:44 AM on September 9, 2015 [1 favorite]

Hey, I also had a TIA (back in 2005, while in grad school) and it played out similar to this + a bit of numbness on my face and arm(s). I also work in toxicology / public health, for what it's worth.

Since this was in close proximity to a blood draw, you should call the donation facility and tell them what happened. Whether or not you follow-up with a doctor visit of your own, this needs to be on your record--and discussed in person with them--before your next blood donation. The facility may encourage you to make an appointment with your primary care physician. If you're insured, I'd call 'em up anyway and ask them if it merits a general office visit. It's nothing to be startled about, since you report its resolution happening throughout your day, but it's never a bad idea to mention situations like this to your caregivers when it involves disordered thinking.
posted by late afternoon dreaming hotel at 10:24 AM on September 9, 2015

Your blood bank has a medical director who you can contact about this.
posted by radioamy at 2:12 PM on September 9, 2015

Nthing a visit to your GP.
posted by brevator at 9:38 AM on September 10, 2015

Response by poster: Thanks guys. It happened again the next morning at almost the exact same time but passed after about 10 minutes. That was actually kind of comforting to me, the consistency. I'm overdue for a visit to my doctor anyway, so I'll set something up.
posted by good lorneing at 5:45 PM on September 13, 2015

« Older 2001 Subaru Forester -- make an expensive repair...   |   How do I Spend My Time in Ireland... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.