The first time I gave blood was about 8 or 9 years ago, and if truth be told, I did it for all the wrong reasons. Actually there was only one reason, but it was still on the business end of wrong. Due to some dietary concerns, I wanted to find out my blood type. Yes, there may be easier ways to find out one’s blood type, such as making a doctor’s appointment, or calling one’s mother, but who has the stomach for all that?
Mrs. Rock and Roll Librarian suggested that I simply go and give blood and that way I could check off my good deed for the year and find out my blood type all in one fell phlebotomy. She’s a nurse, so I figured it was all on the up and up, so when the next blood donor clinic came to town, I was there.
Righto, I think. I’ll just whip in, get jabbed or stabbed or whatever they do, grab my test results, and I’m outta there. I entered the clinic, spotted the blood donating area and bee lined for it, but was promptly ambushed by nurse Ratchet. As it turns out there is a bit of a procedure and I was redirected to the staging (aka loser) area with all the other newbs to fill out the first timers paperwork. Seasoned veterans were waltzing by me with their donor cards out, flashing the nurses at the front table as though they have back stage passes to a concert. Smug bunch of do-gooders, obviously with nothing better to do than hang around the banquet room of the Days Inn, waiting to cash in on the free cookies.
Once I got through the initial barrage of paperwork, I was shuffled into the actual line. It’s not really a line so much as a series of stations where they make you hold different pieces of paper at each one, and ask you weird questions.
“Have you ever been bitten by a monkey? Have you ever yourself bitten a monkey? Have you ever been incarcerated in a Mexican prison and had to sell your body to buy back your freedom?”
No, no, and thank God no.
Eventually you get to sit at the edge of the action, awaiting the call to bleed. This is where I learned that if you get up too fast, you can faint. I watched as one woman got to her feet, took two steps and then started to wobble like a drunken sailor. One of the nurses was at her side in a flash and they walked her over to a stretcher to collect her bearings.
“Is she going to be all right?” I whispered to the old guy next to me.
“Oh…she’ll be fine. Just needs to get some sugar in her.”
What he said next was cause for concern.
“Happens to a lot of first timers if they’re dehydrated.”
Just then, the nurse called his name and he stood up. I grabbed him by his cardigan and held on.
“Wait! I’m a first timer. I’m dehydrated! Am I going to faint?”
Cardigan guy looked at me with no small amount of pity.
“You’ll be fine son. If you’re squeamish, just don’t look at the needle. It’s kind of…well it’s bigger than a regular needle let’s just say. Now let go of my cardigan.”
I let him go as the true gravity of the situation sunk in. They were going to take God knows how much of my precious blood – ciphon it out of my body and store it in a glorified zip-loc bag that was hanging in clear view, right beside my head. No freakin’ way, I think, preparing to bolt.
Unfortunately at that moment, one of my students sat down beside me.
“Hi Mr. McEwen! I didn’t know you gave blood.”
Great. This was going to complicate my exit strategy. I may have to fake a heart attack.
“Hi Lucy. Hey…don’t you have to be 18 to be here?”
“Nope. 17. My birthday was last week. I always said to myself, as soon as I turned 17, I would donate and here I am.”
“Trying to find out your blood type are you?” I asked with a knowing wink.
“What? No, I was in Sick Kids Hospital for three months when I was seven, and I received a lot of blood. I’m just giving back. My goal is to get my gold milestone pin. That’s when you donate 100 times."
Well this was not going well. This girl was hampering my escape with her lousy selfless behavior.
“Wow, 100 times? Do you get paid after like the 5th time or something?”
“Good one Mr. McEwen. So…I’m kind of nervous. Does it hurt?”
“Not really.” I lied. Obviously it’s going to hurt like a bastard.
“Just don’t look at the needle.” I added.
As if on cue, the nurse called my name and it was time to face the music. They positioned me in the reclining chair and to be honest, the next bit of business was considerably less traumatic than I had imagined. I guess I got all worked up for nothing as I made it through without fainting, and apparently l have really good veins for this type of thing, because the needle went in easy and I was done in no time. Relief city.
I didn’t go back to the clinic for about 2 years after that, but the volunteers who hunt down donors are persistent, and fortunately, they didn't give up on me. These days I get a call every few months asking me to schedule an appointment and get there whenever I can. The whole thing takes about an hour.
If you’re looking for a way to help out, I highly recommend donating blood.
Really, it doesn’t hurt much and it’s an easy way to give something of yourself... literally.
By the way….I’m an A positive.
Your homework....Give Blood - Pete Townshend with David Gilmour on guitar.
This is worth it for the backup singers alone....