Thursday, May 24, 2012

(Turning blue) blood

The only time I’ve ever looked forward to giving blood was in high school, when the Bloodmobile came to our school campus and I signed up to donate during a math test.

(I didn’t study.)

While I hate giving blood and hate needles and hate the general smell of hydrogen peroxide, math makes me as, if not more nauseous, and you don’t get a cookie at the end of class.

So on the day of the test, I smugly announced that I had to go give blood and left while the teacher frowned and told me I’d “have to take the test one day,” and said I was only postponing the inevitable.

No matter. I wasn’t going to be pre-calculus-ing ANYTHING that day.

Yet, when I crossed the parking lot to the Bloodmobile, the track coach saw me from afar.

“What do you think you’re doing??” he asked.

“Giving blood,” I said, about to open the tiny door.

“Like hell you are.”

I blinked.

“We have a track meet in two hours,” he said.


“So you can’t go and give a pint of blood and then run two miles!” he fumed. “Go back to class.”

“I can’t,” I told him. “I’m skipping a math test.”

He rolled his eyes and then told me I could sit in his office for the rest of the hour, which I did happily, and may have even taken a nap.
(I miss being a dumb jock).

Every time I try and go give blood, there’s a problem.

I’ve been turned away twice once for having a tattoo inked too recently and once for having studied abroad in Spain too recently and not having enough of a grace period to make sure I didn’t have some sort of disease Espanola.

Another time, I went with my mom, who couldn’t even function around the needle and almost threw up into a garbage bag and we were asked to leave.

And then there’s the time I almost passed out.

Have you ever passed out? It’s kind of the worst thing in the world.
Every pore in your body begins to sweat, even your knees and wrists.

But passing out while giving blood is even worse because you’re trying to find a happy place but everywhere you look there are hanging bags of blood.

And then there’s the embarrassment factor.

Oh, if only that experience was documented....oh wait.
It is.

This, friends, is an article printed in the first newspaper I ever wrote for after college, a weekly paper in Mt. Pleasant, South Carolina.
Time stamp: 2006.

Blood drive brings 470 pints, one woozy writer
by Jenny
Staff writer

         A Carole King song was playing on the radio when I started to get woozy.
         It wasn't Carole King's fault. I was donating blood at the American Red Cross site that had been set up at the Omar Shrine in Mt. Pleasant on March 23. Suddenly I got a bit light-headed.
         I tried to be casual when I noticed my world was suddenly turning black.
         All I said was, "Hey, I'm getting kinda dizzy," and Kristen, the Red Cross worker attending to me, lifted a lever on the chair I was sitting in, and it immediately reclined so much that my feet were in the air, higher than my head.
         "Cute shoes," another worker told me as she breezed by with a Sprite. I guess a reclined chair is "code red" for those working in the donation center. Several workers with supplies made a hasty bee-line in my direction once they noticed my inverted position.
       "Thanks," I responded weakly as I attempted to reach the tip of the straw held right in front of me. It was to "replace my sugar levels."
         There were three Red Cross workers who came over to me, one fanning me with my donor file (which felt fantastic) and two others cracking jokes and coercing me to eat some pretzels. They were all very kind, but the thought of eating a pretzel in a spinning room was too much to ask for.
          Maybe I wouldn't have been so embarrassed had I not convinced two of my co-workers to come with me to donate blood.
         One of my co-workers had never donated blood before, and I spent nearly 20 minutes telling him how it "wasn't a big deal" and to "stop being a baby" when he told me he was concerned about getting woozy.
         "Piece of cake," I said to him as I confidently walked to the chair.
         Too confidently, as it would turn out.
          I was actually feeling fine, all the way until the end, that is. The very, very end. As Kristen put a cotton ball saturated with alcohol on my arm, my humbling moment started.
         No humbling moment for my co-worker, however. He was just fine.
         He was done way before I was, and I saw him eating donuts across the room through the narrow slits my eyes had become. I ate a pretzel, then another pretzel.
         "So, this happens all the time, right?" I asked Kristen about 5 minutes later, when I started to feel normal.
         I also quietly marveled at the medicinal powers of the lowly pretzel.
      "Actually, you're the first person today that has gotten dizzy," she said.
         Thanks, Kristen, I needed that kind of compassion, especially in front of my robust co-workers.
         This wasn't the first time I've donated blood, but it was the first time I got dizzy doing it.
         I now understand why many people choose to not partake in blood drives because they don't want to get dizzy. I mean, it certainly was an uncomfortable five minutes, being immobile and inverted and all.
         Yet the attention and care the workers showed me was exactly what I needed to get back on my feet (literally). That, and the pretzels, of course.
         And, as all the stickers and posters reminded me, it was a small price to pay for saving a life.
         Red Cross officials say that one pint of blood from a blood donor can go beyond helping just one person. In fact, the 470 pints of blood collected that day from the three blood drives at locations around the Lowcountry means that 1,410 lives can be saved.
         Hearing that news about my blood donation made me feel better about giving, no matter how dizzy I felt. When I felt normal again, I proceeded back to work, full steam ahead. 
         And, despite my setback, I will be back.
         There are still more lives to save, more pretzels to eat.

To which I reply now: At least it wasn’t a math test.



  1. This is hilarious. I try to alternate visiting a foreign country and getting new ink in 6 month rotations namely to avoid guilt blood giving. I passed out getting my ear pierced once.... a whole PINT of blood.... no thanks!


  2. I always like to give blood so my tab is less later at the bar . . .


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