I gave blood today. For the first time. And it was not fun.
First, the anxiety build-up. "Is it going to hurt?" (Yes), "Will it take long?" (Yes, but remember-you're saving a life!)
Then the questions. "Do you have an STD?" (No) "Have you participated in sexual activity with someone who may have an STD?" (No) "Are you donating blood to find out if you have HIV or AIDs?" (Holy fuck what sicko does that! they have free STD tests right now in that other building!) Or (no) "hey look that way." (Oww! stop poking me you sadist!)
Apparently my finger stick deems that I am worthy. They give me a snack and tell me to wait. I always thought you got cookies AFTER, but apparently it's more effective to do it before. So I sit. And eat my granola bar. (No cookies) and drink my tiny water bottle. And the anxiety mounts. Why, why, why do they ask all these questions and then make you wait? The suspense is killing me. And my finger hurts.
They call my name. Ask if the phlebotomist in training can stick me. (Umm...no I want the person who's been doing it for 40 years!) They wrap the tubing around my arm. It hurts. They find a flat band that still hurts. The phlebotomist looks nervous; she keeps rubbing my arm to make the veins stand out. I get more panicky. She ends up using a blood pressure cuff. But she tells me to squeeze the squeezy thing and still looks worried.
Eventually she swaps my arm with alcohol, and tells me to look away. I grab for my book (Little Women) and try to focus on Jo and Beth at the seaside. Now, if you've read the book, you know this is not a particularly happy scene. Nor was it sufficiently distracting.
In goes the needle, out comes the blood, and I pride myself on not fainting. I squeeze the red squeezy thing every few seconds and think, this isn't too bad. I’m having a panic attack and I’m crying, but it doesn't actually hurt that much. And except for my arm going numb, I feel ok. I go back to my book and try to focus on Amy and Laurie's adventures abroad. I still can't focus. I start chatting with one of the phlebotomists, telling her this is the first time I’ve met the weight requirement, and I tell her about my camp, and the kids are my inspiration, she is distracted because she has to check on other victims, but the point is I remind myself why I thought this was a good idea. Save a life, help people, it's for the kids.
I ask how much longer and they tell me I am almost halfway there. I try to focus on my book. One of the tubes moves and I feel the warm rubber against my hand. Eww. There’s blood in there. I start feeling a little woozy. I tell them and they tell me I am almost done. I ask if I can be done now. They stall and wait for me to actually be done. Jerks. They rotate the chair so I can recline and put ice on my neck and chest. Still feeling like I’m going to pass out, I notice they give me a blue bandage. Dammit, I wanted pink.
However I’m a little afraid to open my mouth because I feel nauseous. And still kinda like I want to pass out. Yes, yes in through the nose, out through the mouth, why can't I close my eyes, I don't feel good! They give me Gatorade and fan me even though I am freezing and shivering. Apparently my color was bad. Apparently fanning the cold person helps. The woozy feeling passes, I finish my Gatorade, and ask if I’m finished.
No. they want me to sit a bit longer. Ok. Fine. EWW why are earth are they showing the travel channel? That guy is making BLOOD PUDDING! Someone has a very sick sense of humor. Now I really want to go. They make me get up very slowly and then tell me to sit down for at least 5 min. so I go sit. Away from all the blood. Most of the people near me are innocently waiting for their torture. They have no idea. I chat about the recent chemistry quiz with a classmate while she finishes her water and granola. Then I realize no one is looking and I can leave.
So I drive over to the other building and sign up for the marrow registry. I’m a little apprehensive; will I have more blood drawn? Will they let me? But it was just a cheek swab. Totally harmless. The guy at the table is impressed that I’ve done my research. He doesn't have to pitch it to me. I’m all ready. By this point I feel fine despite my recent blood loss and am proud of the bright blue bandage that lets everyone know that I donated blood. And now I get a sticker? Awesome. Now everyone knows that I gave blood AND signed up for the marrow registry.
Was it worth it? Well, if that hard won bag 'o blood goes on to save someone, totally. Will I ever do it again? If they let me take my Xanax first next time. And give me cookies. And a pink bandage.
Four of my first ever campers, all grown up.
Photo not by me- this was taken by our camp photographer