Friday, August 27, 2010

Wimp, or Just a Pint Low?

I donated blood the other day.  I've been meaning to do this for years, but I've managed to avoid actually doing it until just last week.  The karate dojo I attend was having a blood drive, and I thought it would be a good opportunity for me to try donating again.  I haven't donated blood since I was about 25 and all I remember from that experience is: 1. In the time it took me to donate my one pint of blood, three other people donated their pints, 2.  the needle was frighteningly large, and 3.  I was sick for two weeks after that. 

Anyway, I am now older, wiser (not to mention, heavier) and most of all, long overdue to try this again.  I signed up for a spot. 

When I showed up, I felt totally ready.  I had hydrated myself well all day, and I had just eaten a big plate of pasta for dinner.  Ready to go, I thought.  Ready to bleed for the good of mankind.  I filled out my questionnaire, talked to the nurse, and passed the iron test.  My blood pressure was pretty low, though (100/60). 

Is that too low, I worry?  How low was too low?  What if taking away a pint of blood lowers my blood pressure even more - will I pass out?  That would be embarrassing.  I sit on the bench to wait my turn and try not to think about it.  I watch the black belt nearby play with his cell phone as he donates his pint.  The automatic blood-slosher tilts the bag of his blood back and forth, mixing it constantly.  (Why?  So it doesn't clot in the bag?  IEWWW.  Think about THIS when you dream about Edward Cullen, girls.)  I drink my bottle of juice before my donation, as the nurse has suggested.  Is this stuff really going to make a difference? I guess I should have drank more water today. I look around.  Wow, this is just a modified camper trailer.  What if someone actually passes out? The aisle is so narrow they'll take half of these tubes and equipment with them on the way to the floor.  I look up the aisle.  One of the senseis is done, and she is holding her arm in the air, pressing on the bandage.  They never have you do that when they just take a vial of blood for tests.  I wonder if that's because the damn needle is so big and it makes a big hole?  GOD, It's hot in here!  And why are the windows are covered with dark tinting?  Is that really necessary?  When is it going to be my turn?  Another nurse has me recline on one of the bench/tables.  I watch the black-belt's blood continue to fill up the bag and slosh around.  460ml.  Slosh. Slosh. God, that really DOES look like a lot of blood.  470.  slosh.  Mine is going to look like that, too.  Glad it's so close to the table I won't be able to see my own.  490.  Slosh.  500.  His monitor starts beeping, and the nurse comes over.  She tells me I'll have to wait a minute, because she has to unhook him first before she hooks me up.  No problem, I say, but secretly, I just want to go NOW, cause I want to this to be over.  Finally, she turns to me. She sets everything up and when she takes the needle out of its packaging, I steal a glance at it.  It's BIG.  I can clearly see the hole in the end of it, and I can even see up the inside of the hole a few millimeters.  Ugh. I looked away from it, toward the tubes she's filling.  Are those for testing my blood?  I ask.  Yes.  Then she takes out a small bag and hooks it up to my tube.  First, you'll fill up this small bag before you give your main donation.  Ok.  She hooks it up and walks away.  This is going to be way more than a pint, I think to myself.  I try not to move my arm.  I don't want to jolt the big pipe she has shoved into my vein.  That's all I need... the blood stopping, and her coming back here to move it around, the way I think it happened last time I donated blood.  UGH!  Is it hot in here, or is it just me?  She removes the small bag and connects me to the main donation bag.  I don't feel so well.  I think of my husband, who practically passes out when they draw a couple of tubes of his blood.  I think I'll just lie down here, he tells them.  Wheew, that seems like a good idea right about now...

"Are you alright?"  one of the nurses asked me.

If they have to stop this blood donation in the middle, I bet they're going to have to throw my blood out, and I'll be damned if my blood's getting wasted.

Tell me now if you're not feeling ok because we don't want your blood to go to waste.  If you can finish the pint it won't go to waste.   Exactly!  I think.

While I was trying to decide if I was alright or not, she was walking over to me, at the same time asking another nurse to help her flatten my bench.  In about 10 seconds, I was lying flat on my back and another nurse was putting ice packs behind my neck.  The other one added an ice pack to my forehead for good measure. 

"You're going to give her brain-freeze,"  the one nurse said to the other.

I felt like a baby, but I was glad to be lying down. 

Soon, (but not soon enough) I was done.  A nurse disconnected me and brought me another juice and some salty crackers.  I drank it and tried to sit up.  Whoah, not yet.   I reclined again.  I watched them putter around.  Someone should tell them not to say things like, "there's blood all over the place," for a multitude of reasons.  They escorted another donor to the back of the van, telling her to walk sideways or so she doesn't knock over the blood bag from the slosher of the new donor next to me. 


I imagined.  It wasn't pretty. 

Finally, FINALLY, I was able to sit up without feeling woozy.  I was able to leave the donation van an hour and a half after I had entered it. As the sensei who had organized the blood drive walked by me, while I waited in my chair, she told me we got 30 pints. 

"How many pints in a quart?"  I asked.  "Two, right?"


"I was wondering how many gallons that is.  30 pints.  How many gallons is that?"

She grimmaced.  "Ugh. I never thought of it that way."  she said.  "Ugh.  You just skeeved me out." 

We both laughed. 

I watched the next karate class, and then my friend drove me home.  I'd like to say for the record that my blood donating career has officially ended.  If, in another 10 years or so, I feel the need to be heroic in this particular manner, someone, please talk me out of it.      

Monday, August 23, 2010

Take my glasses, PLEASE!

     I am at the age where, sadly, I need reading glasses. I had been hearing for years that this need for reading glasses would suddenly sneak up on me – give or take a year or two (or, three?) but the general consensus was that it happened sometime around age 40. As if 40 isn’t enough of an issue. Anyway, the glasses took me quite by surprise. One year I was teaching English, reading extensively every day and not having a problem, and the next year, I was teaching preschool, naturally holding the books like Goodnight, Moon, and How to Be a Pirate, far away from me as I read so that the kids could see the pictures. Then suddenly, I was teaching high school and I discovered that somewhere in the last year, I had gone blind. I got a pair of glasses and it was a miracle – I could read again! Just in time, too. I had been holding the books farther and farther away from my face, and I realized that soon my arms would be too short.

     They were terrific until my husband started “borrowing” them for his sessions on ebay… and for reading the newspaper… and for… well, let’s just say that he borrowed them for everything. And he left them everywhere. On his nightstand. On the coffee table in the living room. In the garage. In the bathroom. He needed his own pair, because he was destroying mine… throwing them around, stretching them out on his big head. He did get his own pair (from the dollar store) but still he continues to borrow my glasses. He says he’s going to buy twenty pairs from the dollar store, and leave them all over the house so that he can always find a pair, but he really doesn’t have to do that because somehow, I have become the Designated Person in Charge of Eyewear. Now he actually gets ANNOYED with me when I forget the glasses, or I want to use them first. He’s used my long-arm trick, but his vision is a bit worse than mine (he’s further past 40) so his arms aren’t long enough anymore.

     A funny thing has been happening lately, though. I’ve noticed that EVERYONE needs glasses. Everyone in my age bracket, that is. We go out to dinner with friends and I notice THEM holding their menus too far away. “Do you wear reading glasses?” I’d ask casually. No, he or she would say, “I don’t need them.” Haha, I snicker to myself. Sure you don’t.

     I discovered a very good friend of mine needed glasses as well when, after handing her an article to read, she took it and held it at arm’s length.

     “Do you need reading glasses?” I asked her.

     “Probably.” She said.

     “Here, try these.” I handed over mine.

     “Wow.” She said, impressed and at the same time, slightly disgusted. “What a difference!”

     If you recognize yourself in this situation, you may be embarrassed, but don’t be. We’re all in the same boat together. We’re not getting old. Really. I’m not the only one who suddenly needs glasses, and neither are you. I won’t tell if you don’t want me to. But next time someone shows you something with tiny print, or lots of little details, just take the glasses, please.