The last time that I donated blood was during my junior year of high school. The school held an annual blood drive and I signed up for it, probably out of some sense of “I’m not afraid to donate blood, just watch how not afraid I am!” But, of course, I was. I was still afraid to get shots at the doctor’s office and coped by turning my head and holding my nose as if that were going to make any difference.

“Have you seen how big the needle is?!” One of my classmates asked in an undertone, holding up her finger and her thumb several inches apart.

Not listening, not listening lalalalalala!

My turn came for the donor interview which seemed like an endless series of questions that were so divorced from my personal reality that they seemed absurd. The phlebotomist produced a thin plastic tube about the length of their finger.

Ohgod that’s the needle isn’t it? It’s so big! Imma die…

But no, it wasn’t the needle. In those days (yikes, I’m old) the blood iron test was performed by collecting a drop of blood from a pin prick and dropping it into a vial of solution. If it sank quickly enough, your blood iron was good. The plastic tube was some kind of plastic pipette used to collect the blood droplet from the finger to the vital. I breathed a sigh of relief.

The actual catheter for the blood draw was much smaller. I worked hard not to see it before it was installed on the inside of my elbow, but once it was in place, I found I could look at it without any problem. A few minutes later, the collection bag was full and I was turned over to a table full of snacks.

It hadn’t been so bad after all.

I tried to donate several times after that- not least because the blood company now had my contract number and kept calling every few months to try to schedule another donation. I went in twice. I got turned away twice: my blood droplet didn’t sink fast enough. Not enough iron.

Eat red meat and spinach and blackstrap molasses. Suggested all the free reading materials. But, really, who eats blackstrap molasses? Nobody, that’s who.

I eventually told them to take me off their calling list.

So it had been a while since I donated blood. The building where I worked announced that the Red Cross would be holding a blood drive during the month of May and included a link to sign up. It was time, I decided.

I signed up.

So today over lunch hour I went to the donation site. Gone were the pipettes and the endless interview questions- these could be filled out in advance through the website. My blood iron was now tested with a slide and a digital reader instead of a vial and a mysterious solution. My results came in at an even 13: enough to donate whole blood, not enough to qualify for apheresis for red cells or platelets.

Good enough for government work.

The donation itself took less than ten minutes. I suppose that’s the advantage to being so pale as to be nearly see-through. I was a “fast bleeder”. Not sure whether that counts as a good thing or not, but it got the job done and I was on my merry way. I didn’t get dizzy or faint. I didn’t feel woozy or nauseated. The only aftereffect that I was able to perceive was a little bit of clumsiness and a whole lot of chatty. Like, I’ve had a second beer chatty. So giving blood turned me into an extravert for the afternoon. There are worse fates.

And also there were snacks.

It felt good to do something good for the world. Aside from a few pin pricks, it didn’t hurt me at all and it might help someone out down the road.

~ by Gwydhar Gebien on May 24, 2018.

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