You Know You're Too Competitive When This Happens:

A few months ago, I was donating blood here at UCLA; a law student was one cot over from me; and both of us simultaneously noticed that my blood was flowing out faster than hers.

And, no, this wasn't some idle scientific observation. We both really did feel a sense of victory / defeat over it, until we realized how silly that was.

fidens (mail):
Congratulations, you have high blood pressure.
5.23.2006 3:42am
Eugene Volokh (www):
Well, the funny thing is that they say I don't -- they measured it, and it was smack in the middle of normal, and it has been throughout my life. (Actually, high-flow blood, if it isn't caused by high blood pressure or some other harmful condition, has an upside: I can finish my donation duties and get on my way quickly.)
5.23.2006 3:56am
BGates (mail) (www):
The way you phrased it makes it sound like you thought you were winning, but I think the student comes out ahead in any non-donation environment.
5.23.2006 4:12am
steve k:
It's not fun unless you bet on it.
5.23.2006 4:51am
Mike BUSL07 (mail) (www):
Professor, hopefully the following will make you feel less petty. Last year, my friend Jon and I, actually *did* bet on who would finish donating first. Waiting for 20 minutes, we actually warmed up with push-ups and jumping jacks, until the medics told us to stop, (and no doubt muttered to each other that we are idiots, with some justification). We both came in under 5 minutes, though I beat him out by about 20 seconds. Also, he nearly fainted, which made my *victory* all the more resounding.

All I remember is that afterwards I had a really incomprehensible conversation with someone about Wood v. Lucy, Lady Duff Gordon. Odds are, it would have been incomprehensible even if competitive donation had not thinned my blood.
5.23.2006 5:02am
Eh Nonymous (mail) (www):
Pff. Yes, blood pressure can be one of the inputs.

Know what makes a much larger difference for me? The difference between a well-hydrated (two complete bottles of gatorade in the 5 hours prior to donation) vs. moderately or poorly hydrated donation can be a reduction in time of about 40%.

Want to donate easily? Drink extra water beforehand. A *lot* of water.
5.23.2006 9:27am
Eric Muller (www):
Lo! A new criterion for ranking the productivity of law professors!
5.23.2006 10:06am
jimbino (mail):
It's pretty dumb to donate blood, because it supports a system that keeps the medical oligopoly rich while making blood less available and more expensive for those who need it. Richard Epstein has explained this.
5.23.2006 10:32am
BloodDonor (mail):
You're not the only one to "discover" competitive blood donation -- years ago one of the volunteers at the MIT blood drive mentioned in passing that they would occasionally get pairs of donors (usually fraternity members) wanting to race each other....
5.23.2006 10:40am
When I was in college, the point wasn't to race; it was to go out and drink afterward. About half a beer would do it.
5.23.2006 11:30am
Mr. Mandias (mail) (www):
Good stuff. Me and my college buddies would always race when we went. We'd squeeze our hands furiously when the nurses weren't looking. I mention this because I always won. Yeah.
5.23.2006 11:59am
JunkYardLawDog (mail):
Sounds like the woman one cot over was either really attractive or really ugly. Not sure which from the limited facts presented (winK)

Says the "Dog"
5.23.2006 12:02pm
Silicon Valley Jim:
Congratulations and thanks for donating blood. You can be competitive in perhaps a better way by seeing which of you can donate most frequently.
5.23.2006 12:31pm
TomHynes (mail):
Funny thing happened at the sperm bank yesterday..
5.23.2006 12:36pm
DonBoy (mail) (www):
Well, who wants to waste time while giving blood? Ideally it would take 5 seconds. So the faster you can do it, the better.
5.23.2006 1:15pm
John Lederer (mail):
Long ago, when I was about 20 I gave blood in the old Armory building. It was a large drive. One was put on a cot, the needle and tube attached, and the blood flowed into a plastic bag. When the bag had a pint, its weight flipped a lever with a flag up, and the nurse came and detached you. You then you got a cookie and juice.

I lay there. Others came and went. I lay there. My flag stayed down. More came and went. I assumed I was a very slow donor. More came and went. Then a nurse walked by, glanced my way, gasped and shouted for others.

My plastic bag was defective. It had never had the seam on the bottom sealed. My blood ran into the bag and right out on the floor. There was quite an accumulation under my cot, and, mysteriously, where the floor ran under the wall the blood had run, dripping down to heaven only knows where.

After a doctor looked me over I was given extra cookies and a ride home where I was told to take a nap and to eat well for a while.
5.23.2006 1:54pm
Russ (mail):
Mr. Volokh, please find a hobby...
5.23.2006 1:58pm
Russ (mail):
...besides blogging, of course...

5.23.2006 1:59pm
Attila (Pillage Idiot) (mail) (www):
I never have a buddy scheduled to donate at the same time, so I have to compete against the clock. I usually get some weird stares when I "cross the finish line" and yell "Yes!" with a raised, clenched fist.

It's actually a relief to know I'm not the only one.
5.23.2006 2:04pm
wood turtle (mail):
I think a lot of it depends on the vein that is used.

Also, men may get done faster, but I think they faint more often. Evidently, a lot of them can't stand the sight of blood.

Yes, I second that reader that you need a hobby.
5.23.2006 2:06pm
R. Gould-Saltman (mail):

I'd assumed that there was some competitive aspect to this process since I noticed the "Wall of Fame" at the Cedars-Sinai blood/platlet donation unit listing folks some of whose life-time donation totals could be expressed in GALLONS.
5.23.2006 3:15pm
Congrats on giving blood.

I had to stop just shy of my two gallon pin because of too much aggregate time in the Mad Cow countries. (Virtually all of Western Europe counts.)
5.23.2006 4:08pm
Guest J:
Who wins, the person whose blood flows fastest or slowest?
5.23.2006 4:56pm
I had a very similar thing happen to me today. I gave blood for the first time and I strangely felt really proud that my bag filled up with blood before my friends' did. I do have high blood pressure though.
5.23.2006 5:01pm
jimbino (mail):
Funny about giving blood:

While athletes give blood faster, advertising execs give the same blood but it ends up much more expensive, the Socialists' blood would be free for everyone if the supply hadn't dried up, Republicans' blood comes from poor folks but is available only to the rich, and the Libertarians' blood--perfect, reasonably priced, and available to all--will never be tried.
5.23.2006 5:12pm
Silicon Valley Jim:
I'd assumed that there was some competitive aspect to this process since I noticed the "Wall of Fame" at the Cedars-Sinai blood/platlet donation unit listing folks some of whose life-time donation totals could be expressed in GALLONS.

I'm one of those folks (at Stanford, not at Cedars-Sinai), so I'll give a bit of explanation. Donation via platelet apheresis (a process which extracts about one-quarter of the platelets - the cells that clot to stop bleeding - in your body, and a bit of plasma) takes a bit over an hour, but the donor gets nearly all the red cells back. As a result, the donor doesn't suffer from the light-headed feeling that frequently accompanies whole-blood donation. Also, while it is legal to donate whole blood every eight weeks, up to a maximum of five times per year, it is legal to donate platelets every three days, up to a maximum of twenty-four times per year. It is likely that the majority of those on the wall of fame have made the majority of their donations via apheresis.

Depending on your blood type and your HLA (human leukocyte antigen) type, you may do more good by donating platelets than by donating whole blood, or it may be the other way around.

It is also possible to give other blood components via apheresis (white cells, granulocytes, which, I think, are one variety of white cell, red cells, and plasma). If you are at all interested, ask any of the nurses at the blood bank where you donate.
5.23.2006 5:59pm
My girlfriend and her friends used to race when they gave blood as high school seniors. Rapidly squeezing the rubber ball makes it flow faster. They were all athletes in excellent shape, so it wasn't a problem.
5.23.2006 6:37pm
Frank Drackmann (mail):
There have been some studies showing a cardiovascular benefit from regular blood donation, the thinking being thats its easier on the heart not having to pump that extra reserve blood we carry around in case of emergencies. I stick with the plasma donation though, at least you get paid.
5.23.2006 10:47pm
Some Foo:
If you'd lost, would you have commented on it?
5.24.2006 5:28pm
jb (mail):
If you guys promise not to post on medical sites, I promise to never post again on this legal site, but, really, some factual information may be helpful. First, the blood that you donate comes from the venous system, a low pressure set of blood vessels that has nothing to do with the pressure in your arteries (the blood pressure that we worry about). Blood flow is highly dependent on the viscosity of the blood, which in turn is determined primarily by the henatocrit- the proportion of blood made up of blood cells, as opposed to the liquid plasma. Men tend to have higher hematocrits than women, so their blood should flow more slowly. The state of hydration will also have a lot to do with it. The poster who recommended drinking Gatorade to speed up the donation process was correct- "watered down" blood will flow more quickly. Another factor is the diameter of the vein that is stuck- men have larger veins than women, so that may counterbalance the higher viscosity. It's true that regular blood donators live longer (or at least it seems that way).
5.24.2006 10:50pm
Zach (mail):
I was a dorm blood drive coordinator ("blood tsar")when an undergrad at Stanford, and I can tell you that it often got competitive. People (usually guys) would flex their biceps to squeeze blood out more quickly or would exercise beforehand. Of course, we would compete with other dorms to give the most blood.
To confirm Silicon Valley Jim, I am a 4 gal donor at Stanford, due mainly to donating platelets every 2-weeks. You can watch movies for free while you wait. Sometimes I would give a double donation because I have a lot of platelets. Therefore, it was not unusual for me to score over a gallon a year (since I didn't donate in the summer, nor when I was sick).
5.25.2006 3:18pm