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.