And you should too. On Wednesday, the van from Canadian Blood Services pulled up outside work and loaded six of us up for a trip to the donation clinic. Among the group were three first-time donors, including me.
I hadn’t given it much thought when I signed up to go. Seemed like an appropriate thing to do and courtesy of a left-turning driver, a yellow light, rain-slicked roads and a motorcycle I was riding, I’d been the beneficiary of their services in the past. Plus, I couldn’t think of any excuse not to go.
Once in the van, I started getting nervous as I wondered how I would react – would I be weak and dizzy? Would I faint? Would it hurt? Would I do it properly? I’m not sure how you can give blood improperly but ego is a funny thing isn’t it. Upon arrival we were signed up and ushered into the iron-check – “your iron is excellent – enough to take from both arms” they joked. Apparently I’m getting my share of red meat.
On to the medical history and ahem “behaviour” questions – ever used illegal IV drugs, ever used illegal IV steroids, ever traded money or food for sex, ever had sex with someone in exchange for money or food, ever had sex with a man – even once… Now, I understand – I think – why they ask that last one, but I couldn’t help wondering if that applied to women too? At the end of the questions, they give you a face-saving out. Some people don’t feel they can be honest on the questionnaire or they’re feeling pressured to donate blood even though they feel they can’t for reasons we’ve discussed. I’ll leave the room, you take sticker from this sheet from either the “yes” or “no” bar codes and stick it on the form, then throw the bar code paper in the trash so nobody sees it. Nobody can tell what you’ve selected until the form is scanned during testing. You’ll still donate blood, but if you’ve selected”no”, your blood will be tested and then destroyed.
Admirable understanding of human nature, peer pressure and the need for some people to keep a secret. Brilliant on their part. Being a relatively boring sort in a fashion, I had no reason not to donate and found myself ushered into a donation chair in short order. I tried to relax but there’s just something about needles. It’s one thing when @captdrlarry sticks a needle in your mouth so he can get to work rectifying the damage I’ve self-inflicted. I’ve had my share of needles in the hospital for various and sundry – again – self-inflicted damage and yet I was still finding myself a bit hyped up.
I turned my head when she brought the needle out, not able to watch it going in. The logical side was certain it wouldn’t hurt but the rest of me was not sure how it was going to stay in the chair. POKE! Oh ow! Okay – that hurt more than the logician expected…I look – ah, well that’s why – it’s not a needle like I’m familiar with. It’s a bit larger, say like the size of a gas pump nozzle. Okay maybe a little smaller – but it looked big – and stout – enough to inflate a basketball. I noticed the clear tubing on the end of the needle was still clear. Odd. “Oh…oh shoot, I’m sorry, I’ve missed. Darn…we’re going to have to try the other arm.“ Ha! Do that again? You must be kidding. “Is that going to be okay – can we try the other one?” “No problem!” I heard someone say in my voice, while my face broke into an autopilot smile. I thought you were kidding about taking from both arms.
2nd time’s the charm it seems and I finished up in a little over 6 minutes, little band-aids in both elbows. Not wanting to risk any adverse side-effects, I availed myself the Oreos, Fudgeos, creme-filled cookies with the red jelly dot centers and an orange juice. And a granola bar. Have to make sure the blood sugar is up! Nothing to do with a sweet tooth…honest.
There it was, all done. In fairness, the momentary pain of the needle was nothing to be worked up about and they were quick to point out that my little donation could save a life. How cool is that? How can you not donate?
They did warn me before we left – no heavy lifting or strenuous activity for 6 to 8 hours. “Uhm…I rode my bicycle to work today” I said, not pointing out that Adam, who was the first to sign up for donating, had also ridden his. They smiled and laughed. “No, really – I rode my bike to work – that’s how I commute”. No laughing. “Hmmm….how far?” “15km”. “Hmmm…you should be okay. Just take it easy and get a ride if you need to”. Sure. Thing is, you don’t know if you’re going to need a ride until…well…you’re already committed and out there, do you?