Alternative post title: The Day I Decided to Become a Plasma Donor.

In school, they taught us all the things about blood type compatibility; about antigens on the surface of red blood cells, anti-A / anti-B antibodies, Rh positive / negative, phenotype and genotype, how O- is the universal blood donor, AB+ the universal acceptor, so on and so forth.

My mother was the one who first brought me to a donation centre to donate blood, and over time, helping others via donating blood became my own passion. I’ve been a regular whole blood donor for a while, and donated every 3 months except during the period when I was iron deficient (I was donating regularly and restricting food at the same time; long story). Donors don’t get financially compensated in Australia, but the knowledge that my blood could save three lives, as Red Cross heavily promotes, was enough.

My blood donation centre of choice was the mobile centre near work. They would appear every 3 months, and because my boss also supported the idea, I could often pop out during work for a quick donation. Every time the staff at the mobile centre would make me feel like I was doing the right thing. They would thank me like they personally and directly benefit from my deed.

Blood Donation Jul 2015: Last Whole Blood Donation

Blood Donation Jul 2015: Quite possibly the last whole blood donation

Today, something changed. The finger pricking was done on a painful part of the fingertip. It bruised. Two staff frowned at me and asked if I’d made an appointment (I did), both at interview and the donation chair, and told me they wouldn’t normally take my blood type. They completed the procedure and hurried me along. It was as though I was wasting their time.

I was fully aware of the fact that my AB+ blood is only useful for the also AB+ population, the only ones who could take the blood type transfusion without ill effects. But it was only then, today, a staff handed me a brochure about plasma donation. People with AB+ blood are universal blood recipients because we don’t have anti-A and anti-B antibodies to react to the antigens that may be present on the red blood cells in other blood types, and for the exact reason our plasma has the opposite effect: AB plasma doesn’t contain anti-A and anti-B antibodies and can therefore be received by all blood types. So essentially by donating my full blood the whole time I’ve been wasting their time, my time, and my red blood cells.

ABO Blood Type

ABO Blood Type from the Wikipedia article

I was never taught anything other than blood transfusion in school; the theory was all there but I just never made the connection. Even Mum didn’t seem to know about the “opposite” compatibility until I told her for the first time. In some obscure way, I feel slightly more humble today realising that I apparently could only take AB plasma and nothing else.

But Red Cross really, really has to promote plasma and platelet donations as much as they do whole blood.

I suppose it is more effective to sell one message at a time. I suppose “save 3 lives” is less complicated a message than “make 17 life-saving products”. I suppose most people’s whole blood is far more useful than my own, which I only share with 3% of the world population. I suppose one of the criteria for plasma donation is having successfully donated full blood at least once within the last 2 years. I don’t condone making a donor feel unwelcome (it probably wasn’t even their intention), but I suppose it all worked out in the end.

From the next donation on, I’ll be giving my universally accepted AB plasma. It’s a much longer procedure and one that cannot be done at a mobile donation site, but helping other less fortunate, donating what I can, is my passion.

Today is the day I decided to become a plasma donor.

Richard spotted a few whales on his Oxfam training walk, so on this gorgeous 19°C day today, we had no excuse not to drive out to the Cape Solander lookout at the Kamay Botony Bay National Park. It was such a pleasant day the jacket came right off!

Highlights of the event: whale jumped people cheered! Another whale jumped people cheered again! Yet another whale jumped… Whale watching is actually more fun than what this blog post suggests.

Cape Solander, Kamay Botany Bay National Park, Sydney

Whale Watching at Cape Solander, Kamay Botany Bay National Park

Also more fun than what this total lack of whale phone camera picture suggests…

Whale, at the very least, it’s definitely an improvement to last year‘s zero whale spotting!

“How much is in a serving size? Watch how much food you eat with these easy-to-remember references from everyday life.”

Easy Way to Estimate Shotgun Shell Size

“How much is in a serving size? Watch how much food you eat with these easy-to-remember references from everyday life.”

Ah, so a typical shotgun shell is about the same size as a 28g sausage. And now the non-gun owning population of the world knows. #Murica rolleyes

This is it! The long overdue actual post of my half business half pleasure work play trip in Cairns, referred to on so many previous posts! Richard joined me on the 7-day/6-night trip for full pleasure, and because he was the one with more knowledge of the place and more importantly free time, organised everything leisure.

The Business Half

28-31 May 2015 (Thu-Sun)

Our company was one of the dozen exhibitors at the 4-day biennial ASCCP Scientific Meeting (XXIVth) that ran into the weekend. I normally work behind the scenes, but this wasn’t my first exhibition (first here), only the first outside of Sydney.

iCIMS at ASCCP XXIVth Scientific Meeting (2015)

Our exhibition table at the ASCCP XXIVth Scientific Meeting (2015) (from the event organiser camera)

The most stressful part for me were the conference dinners, in which I wanted to enjoy because foooood, but it was all still business, and portions were ironically tinier for the bigger of the conference dinners. I survived. It was only a small exhibition at this fantabulous hotel and I was in safe hands working alongside veteran colleague and good friend Ali. The zero commute time and change of scenery were of course a plus.

Meanwhile, Richard had to entertain himself by fishing, taking walks and not working. Poor thing.

The Pleasure Half

31 May 2015 (Sun): Short Cruise

It was all holiday from the afternoon on after we packed up work stuff and said farewell to everyone. We didn’t have a lot of free time, but Richard thought doing something different would get me out of my work mindset. He got us tickets on the Sunset Cruise that goes out to Trinity Inlet. Usually there would be a sunset view, but it’s just our luck to have been getting rain in Cairns.

We had the front deck to ourselves for the first half, until they took away the finger food served aboard and people gradually discovered the better view outside. It was a very relaxing cruise even though we didn’t spot any crocodiles and I came back with 3 mosquito bites.

1 Jun 2015 (Mon): Crocodiles and Waterfall

Pleasure day 2 wall of thumbnails before wall of text:

Hartley’s Crocodile Adventures

We hired a car and drove about 40 minutes to Hartley’s Crocodile Adventures with the help of a navigation app, which decided that our word of the day shall be “roundabout”, because there’s a roundabout at just about every intersection in Cairns. We arrived on schedule mid-morning.

Hartley's Crocodile Adventure, June 2015: Crocodile Feeding Show

Hartley’s Crocodile Adventure, June 2015: Crocodile Feeding Show (Saltwater Crocodiles)

We watched the crocodile feeding show and I learnt the difference between saltwater crocodiles (dangerous!) and the freshies (not so dangerous), but mostly just my preference to not have anything to do with any of them whatsoever thank you very much. We saw other animals like cassowaries, emus and koalas, but the highlight unexpectedly came to me when we walked into an enclosed petting area, where even though we had zero food with us, a hopping thing still chose to hang out with us the whole time when I had only intended to pet the sleeping thing for a little while.

Hartley's Crocodile Adventures, June 2015: Kangaroo

Hartley’s Crocodile Adventures, June 2015: Sleeping Thing and Hopping Thing

Yeah, Richard had to reassure me that the sleeping thing and hopping thing were different species when the latter headed straight for me and I panicked, thinking the sleeping thing I petted was the baby of the hopping thing. tongue

We explored the attraction a little more before packing up and returning to the hotel to set off for our next destination.

Millaa Millaa Falls

Millaa Millaa Falls, June 2015

Millaa Millaa Falls all mine!

There were two routes from the hotel to Millaa Millaa Falls, a natural tourist attraction with a beautiful waterfall. Richard chose the shorter of the two routes, which was still a 100 km, 1.5-hour drive, along a winding and windy highway in the light rain. We didn’t get to the waterfalls until after 5 pm.

Millaa Millaa Falls was lovely, if still a bit cold and rocky at the bottom, and empty except for the other older couple who showed up briefly to take pictures. We did the same ourselves and took a quick dip in the lake, and then it was time to brave the drive back — back along the winding road in the wind and rain, quickly losing daylight and eventually in the dark, all the while in the hire car with horribly placed pillars that limited vision further. Kudos to Richard for handling the stress well and bringing us back in one piece.

A hotel staff later told us that some 20 years ago, a whole school bus steered off the same cliffs and many died. Mad kudos to Richard for bringing us back in one piece…

2 Jun 2015 (Tue): Helicopter Flight and Snorkelling

Second last day, last full day of the trip!

Helicopter Flight

Great Barrier Reef Cairns, June 2015: Reef View from Helicopter

Great Barrier Reef from above

Tickets for the half-day fly/cruise trip for the previous day were all sold out, but it turned out to be a blessing in disguise because today was pretty much the only sunny day of our entire trip. Win! We took the shuttle bus to the helicopter fields, signed a form to acknowledge that we might die today, weighed ourselves and went into denial about our weight, and waited for the two others who were meant to join us. They didn’t make it in time from their tight schedule so we had our own helicopter. Double win!

This was my first helicopter ride ever and Richard let me take the front seat. The view of the Reef from above was gorgeous and gave me a sense of just how great the Great Barrier Reef was. The flight was only 20 minutes and we had to land far too soon to get on the boat to prepare for our snorkelling session at the Hastings Reef.

Snorkelling the Great Barrier Reef

This was actually also my first time snorkelling. Despite proclaiming to be a relatively good swimmer (well, I did only tick “average” on the death safety survey), I relied on a noodle to float so that I could focus on breathing, which was still ridiculously hard and I gulped a lot of salt water. Things became a lot easier once I switched to a better fit than the standard gear that was too big for me.

Great Barrier Reef Cairns, June 2015: Snorkelling

Great Barrier Reef Cairns, June 2015: First time snorkelling! (Richard cam)

The reef! The fish! The water! The sound of fish biting off the coral! If only the weather had been better today. 2 hours of snorkelling didn’t look much on paper, but it was quite a workout. I enjoyed my time more than I thought I could for a first snorkelling trip. (I might or might not have also accidentally dropped a snorkel. tongue )

Night Fishing

After dinner back on land, we ended our night on a bit of fishing at the poorly lit purpose-built jetty. Richard retaught me how to cast since it’s been a while I last tried this. We didn’t catch anything and there’s still much for me to learn.

3 Jun 2015 (Wed): Last Morning and Bonus Photos

There wasn’t enough time to do anything else on the last morning. We checked out of the hotel after our last epic breakfast at the buffet, and headed to the airport for home, Sydney.

Thank you work for giving me this opportunity, and thank you Richard for making yet another trip of ours fun and memorable. If putting on almost 2 kg from that one week doesn’t prove that I had a good time, I don’t know what does. smile

The Link Dump

Date/s Post Link Food? Description
28 May 2015 A Girl’s Gotta Eat flying out
28 May 2015 Flight Meal on Qantas Flight QF924
28 May 2015 Corea Corea, Orchid Plaza, Cairns late lunch
May-Jun 2015 La Pizza Trattoria, Cairns dinner, 2 nights!
May-Jun 2015 Devine Gelato, Cairns dessert, 3 nights!
31 May 2015 Sushi Express, Orchid Plaza, Cairns quick lunch
31 May 2015 The Raw Prawn, Cairns seafood dinner
2 Jun 2015 Riki Yakiniku Dining Bar, Orchid Plaza, Cairns
May-Jun 2015 Food and Catering at Pullman Cairns International various hotel meals
May-Jun 2015 Pullman Cairns International Hotel the hotel itself
3 Jun 2015 Flight Meal on Qantas Flight QF925

We stayed at Pullman Cairns International for my half business half pleasure work play trip in Cairns, the hotel where the conference I attended was held. There were also queen rooms and rooms with harbour view, but work booked the room for me through the conference and I got a 7th floor double room with a mountain/city view. Richard, of course, stayed with me.

The 5-star hotel room was very spacious even with the double double bed inside (not typo). Instant coffee (caffeinated and decaffeinated), Twining teabags (tea and tisane) and milk are free at the minibar and refilled daily. We got complimentary wifi for up to three devices during the conference days, but didn’t bother with it after the conference was over.

Pullman Cairns International Hotel: Double Room

Pullman Cairns International Hotel: Double Room and a Richard checking out the minibar

The bathroom was also really big and beautiful with shampoo, conditioner and shower gel also refilled daily. Loved the massive and thick hotel bath towels.

Pullman Cairns International Hotel: Double Room Bathroom

Pullman Cairns International Hotel: Double Room Bathroom (totally just an excuse for a mirror selfie)

It’s been showering intermittently through our trip, but we stuck around Cairns for a few more days for pleasure and extended our stay in the same room after all work finished. On the last day, the sun did come out and I managed to get this shot with a blue sky!

Pullman Cairns International Hotel: City Mountain Room View

Pullman Cairns International Hotel: 7th floor city mountain room view on a sunny day

The great thing about facing this direction was the view of the pool from the balcony, not for the reason you think — well, I mean, bikini views are pretty awesome — but because it conveniently gave me an opportunity to scout out the reception dinner that happened on the pooldeck before attending it on the first night. Shut up; social events are stressful. tongue

Gorgeous hotel room. The only thing I could complain about the hotel is having to clumsily insert the room keycard to operate the lifts instead of being able to do it through contactless. I also don’t think I ever dissociated the hotel lobby smell with the work conference, but absolutely enjoyed my very comfortable stay at the Pullman Cairns International.

On our way to Cairns! All business for colleague and good friend; half business half pleasure for me; all pleasure for Richard.

Cairns Trip Flight Selfie

Vickie, Richard and Ali

See food in Cairns! See you in Cairns, I mean!

Cairns Trip Flight Selfie

No individual entertainment system for this short-haul flight. I guess I’ll actually have to talk to people. The things they made me do!

I’ve had an account on Eatability for a while but never got into it, because the site just didn’t quite have the same appeal to me as a blogger as Urbanspoon (soon to be Zomato). I randomly logged in after a million years to its new site design and review categories, and the first thing that came up on my profile was a review blurb I wrote for a French restaurant last year.

Eatability Censorship: Roasted Quail B******

Roasted Quail B… What?

I really don’t remember ordering Roasted Quail Bitches for dinner…

Oh. Breasts. What a dirty word. rolleyes

We’ve been taking so many pictures together seated, sometimes I forget how tall he really is…

Grandpa, Grandma, Vickie and Richard

Grandpa, Grandma, me, and some guy whose head got chopped off by the album thumbnail (sometimes also known as Richard)

I’m actually slightly above average height for an Australian woman!

Saw the news ticker “New e-health system to see all Australians given electronic health record” on TV this morning, which of course piqued my interest as it’s only something I spent 2 full-time years that my parents paid exorbitant international postgraduate fees on. How many of you have heard of the term PCEHR? How many of you know that you have long been assigned an IHI? How many of you have actually set up, logged in and used the existing national e-health system? I have, I have, and I have, but only because I studied and am actually working in my field, and actively pay attention to the development.

The new e-health system is an opt-out, I heard, but I have a feeling it’s going to be the same fail implementation that no-one but healthcare practitioners would use. Can’t fully blame the government for not promoting it properly, though; most people really just don’t care.