There’s my leg, and – OMG! – blood running through my leg! And my arm! And everywhere ! Photo: Mitch Teich
March 26, 2022 —
Dave Barry wrote something along these lines probably 35 years ago, but it’s important, and I’m going to assume that – unlike me – you probably didn’t spend most of your teenage years memorizing the chronicles of Dave Barry. So if you feel like you’re reading something like this in, say, 1989, I apologize in advance.
I donated blood the other day. It was my first time doing it. Not because I didn’t want to; not really. I take an intravenous medication that used to be on the list of medications that prohibited people from donating blood. And it was disappointing – or rather, it was most disappointing.
‘Cause deep in my psyche it was also practice. It made me realize the importance of donating blood, to be truly grateful to my relatives, friends, colleagues and strangers who donated blood, and to wish I could donate blood, but also – just a little – to be relieved that I didn’t have to go through that.
But a few weeks ago, a woman I know in Wisconsin posted that she had just donated blood for the first time. She has the same condition and takes the same medications as me. So I contacted her and she confirmed that yes, our medication no longer disqualifies us from donating blood. I knew what I had to do.
I knew that – like me – there are many people who have survived operations and whether they needed a transfusion or not, there was blood waiting. I knew there’s a part of the world today where people – lots of people – are in dire need of blood, because they’ve lost so much of their own blood. I knew there were car accidents, farm accidents and other mishaps in our part of the world and doctors and nurses needed blood to help save people’s lives and get them back to their wives and husbands and to their children and parents. I knew what I needed most was something to write six or seven hundred words about on Saturday.
So I signed up. And I walked to the auditorium of my local high school, the same room where my daughter was inducted into the French Honor Society last spring; only, instead of kids nervously lighting candles, there were stretchers, computers, and blood bags everywhere.
Knowing that a long wait in a high school auditorium would give people one last chance to flee, they got me on stage pretty quickly and started taking my vitals and asking me a lot of personal questions that I don’t know. never imagined speaking on the stage of a high school auditorium. And then they asked me about my blood donation history.
“Uh, I don’t even know my blood type,” I interrupted.
“That’s good,” replied the reception nurse. ” You do not need to know. You will get a code number which you can call in a few days and they will tell you.
Drat. I mean, awesome! It also turns out that before you can donate a lot of blood, you need to give them some blood, so they can make sure you have enough hemoglobin to be able to donate a lot of blood. One more chance to have my walking papers.
“17.4,” she said, rating my knowledge of hemoglobin levels on par with my knowledge of sous vide cooking. Before I could ask anything else, she asked me if I preferred giving while lying or sitting.
I chose to lie down.
Having had an intravenous drip every eight weeks for years, I’m not really afraid of needles. But somehow it felt different that they were pulling things out of the veins, rather than putting something in. But the nurse gave me something to squeeze to swell my veins, found a presumably suitable spot, and prepped my arm. And I waited.
“You can probably loosen the grip of death now,” she said. I looked at the tube that was moving away from the crook of my arm. We were on our way.
The donation itself probably took less time than the questionnaire – around 12 minutes. I passed the time by peppering the nurse with questions (“How much blood are you taking?” “Where will it go?”) that were answered patiently or indulgently (“Almost a pint” and “Wherever is necessary “. ).
And when it was over, I took a few minutes to make sure I felt good, which I was. Better than okay. For my effort, they gave me mini Oreos and juice to help me recover, a t-shirt to make other people so jealous they’ll also give blood, and a New York Giants spinner because, uh, they want to remind people that some experiences are scarier than donating blood.
Probably best of all, they signed me up for another blood donation in May. And because there will always be a need until then, you can find a donation site near you here: https://www.redcrossblood.org/give.html/find-drive