Blood drives bring out the best and the worst in people. There is nothing like the dizzying sensation of knowing that your temporary vertigo could help save the life of another human being. Maybe even a baby...or a kitten. Nor is there any greater shame than passing the truck knowing others are giving, but you just don't have the time because you didn't think of it...kitten killer! I, unfortunately, found that giving my best only got me the worst.
I am a bit apprehensive of needles so I was already feeling slightly queasy as I walked up to the tent. After stupidly waving at a group of nurses (?), I was directed to the sign in area where Two women showered me with pins to commemorate the writing of my name and the time on a sheet of paper. I was handed a packet and told to read it all the way through to ensure I was fully qualified to give blood. Who would have thought there would be such a rigorous application process to let myself be robbed of a pint of blood at the beginning of, what I would later realize is, swine flu season! I have knowingly weakened myself risking infection from this mild, flu-like virus and I had to hurl myself into the gauntlet to do it!
I finished the entire booklet (although I felt I got very little from the Spanish language section) and was now ready to board the bus. A tiny room housing an outdated computer and two little chairs set the scene for my next trial. A young man quizzed me on my personal details (including those which one should never ask a lady) and further injured me by stabbing my finger and literally milking out the blood until it was dark enough to satisfy him. After analyzing the choicest sample he declared my iron levels high enough to continue. Continue? After being milked?! No, Sir! I was halfway out the door when he alluded that the next portion of testing would be a questionnaire. Those of you who know me, know that I have a weakness for questionnaires. They ask you all sorts of questions about yourself and they never tease or run away no matter what answers you put. They just keep asking more questions. Sometimes it's nice to feel someone has an interest in your life and that someone is listening. Not judging, just listening. And so I was trapped answering "las preguntas" as outlined in the booklet.
Somehow I muddle through the questions and am taken to the main cabin and am instructed to lay on a gym-type mat that is raised to create a bed. I notice the mats don't have adequate sanitary precautions (i.e. - not everything is covered in plastic). I don't have to tell some of you about the troubles I've gotten in to due to just this sort of thing - and for those I do have to tell, too bad ain't gonna happen. I was naturally wary, but by this point I was so traumatized from the milking and so befuddled from the questionnaire that I simply lay down and hoped against hope I wouldn't catch anything. "This is a licensed bloodmobile, right? They probably have pretty strict health checks for these things. I'll be fine. Look, that pillow over there has a paper towel on it. I bet my pillow has a paper towel too. I'll be just fine. The paper towel will protect me.
HAVE YOU BEEN OUTSIDE THE UNITED STATES OR CANADA WITHIN THE PAST THREE YEARS?
Yes. Is that a problem?
HAVE YOU RESIDED WITH AN INDIVIDUAL KNOWN TO HAVE HEPATITIS?
No. At least I don't think so. Maybe someone had it and didn't tell me. Could I have caught something just by living with someone?
HAVE YOU HAD SEXUAL CONTACT WITH A MALE WHO HAS HAD SEXUAL
CONTACT WITH A MONKEY THAT WAS BORN IN NIGERIA, BUT IS NOW LIVING IN BELGIUM DUE TO THE WORSENING ECONOMIC SITUATION IN HIS HOME COUNTRY?
Huh? No. What?
Monkey? That's really specific.
As my arm is being prepared for the needle, I am given a red, rubber ball to play with - as long as I don't move my arm, that is. Squeeze...Release...Squeeze...Release...Squ...this is boring...NEEDLE!...OWW...OK...Ok...ok...Squeeze...Release...Squeeze... Release...Squeeze... this hurts a lot more when I feel the needle digging in my arm every time I squeeze...Release...or is it squeeze?...oooh...who needs a ball...oooh...the world is kind of fuzzy like Lucille Ball's later movies when the entire thing was shot in soft focus...hmmm...why are there names on the back of those people's jackets?...Why is that man snoring?...Whoa...Why is my arm twitching? I didn't ask it to do that...Why is that person nervously looking at my blood bag and trying to quickly finish up with someone else?...Why am I so thirsty?...Why am I so nauseous?...Oh, no...
Before I know it I am covered in freezing cold paper towels and am coughing into a paper bag. These home remedies seem as silly and antiquated as when they used leeches to cure "unnatural desires" in women. But the bag did it's job and unlike using leeches I didn't have to lose any blo...wait a minute...nevermind.
Almost fainting is embarrassing. But almost fainting, then being watched over like a hawk, then trying to prove you can get up and almost fainting again is more embarrassing.There's nothing like a middle-aged woman who barely speaks English force-feeding you orange juice and cookies to make you feel like a moron. It was almost half an hour before my water, my purple-bandaged arm and my saucy "it's my first time' button shakily made it to a safe, cool place where I could sit and play solitaire on my phone until I had to start my shift.
A Quick Note:
Here's a couple Dos and Don'ts when dealing with the blood deprived
1. DO be aware of weakness/dizziness in someone who has just given up a significant amount of blood. DON'T let everyone else doing a physically demanding job go home early leaving the weakest person behind to clean up all the mess. Think about it this way; if someone cut their arm open and spilled a pint of blood on the ground, would you still ask them to do the job? If not, take it easy on them.
2. DO think about how this person has already had to battle with the nausea and discomfort of seeing a lot of blood. DON'T think it hilariously ironic when this person has to deal with used, yet unflushed tampons or napkin after napkin of blood from a bloody nose. Enough is enough! These people are just flaunting all the blood they can waste by leaving these disgusting, personal mementos where someone else can find them.
3. DO be supportive and happy for a blood donor. DON'T (please, Please. PLEASE don't) feel the need to unburden yourself as to all the various reason why you cannot give blood. Whether innocuous (feeling ill) or disgusting (crazy sexcapades/drug use), no one wants to hear it. Giving blood is not signing up as ambassador to the Red Cross. Nobody is judging you. Whether coworker or guest (yes, that happened) please just keep it to yourselves.