Monday, 27 June 2016

The Vampire Machines, Pt. II

Once upon a time, I donated blood. You can read about that here. It was easy, and went very well. About a year later, I went to donate a second time. The second time was a complete failure. The tube went in and I almost blacked out. The nurses said that my body just decided it wasn't going to give that day. My mom said I'd inherited my dad's squeamishness around needles.

Last weekend I once again agreed to allow some nice nurses to siphon off my life's blood.

"Didn't you almost pass out last time?" asked my mom when I explained to her where I was going.

"Yeah," I replied, "But I think that was just a once-off. I was fine the first time."

She looked dubious, "Neither you nor your father have ever handled needles very well," she said. "It was probably psychological."

"Nah," I said. "I wasn't nervous at all."

"Well," she replied as I left, "Good luck."

The decor of the clinic was entirely red. Reminiscent of blood, I suppose. How apropos. I wasn't nervous about the needle, per se, but I was nervous about psyching myself out. But just for the record, the nurse who measured it said that I had excellent blood pressure.

Now, the crucial moment:

The nurse poked my left arm to find a good vein. She poked it again. A minute or two later, I said, "We can try the other arm if it'll work better." She moved over to my right arm. She poked it. She poked it again.

"Have you been drinking lots of water?" she asked.

"Yes," I replied.

"Since two days ago?" she asked.

"Well... uh... no," I said. "I didn't realize I had to start prepping then."

Oh, but things might have gone so much differently if I had. It seems I was destined to be a difficult patient. Everybody else was squeezing plastic tubes of some sort, but my nurse gave me warm beans in a latex glove to squeeze, instead. Everybody else had their elbows directly on the comfy armrest. She awkwardly propped mine up on two foam pillows above the armrest.

Then I said, "By the way, I almost passed out last time."

She looked up in alarm. "Oh!" she exclaimed.

"Don't worry, I'll try not to do the same thing this time," I assured her. "And anyway, my reaction was pretty immediate last time, upon the tube going in, so we should know pretty quickly how this will turn out."

"Ok," she said, sounding more nervous than me. She inserted the needle into my arm. I felt so perfectly relaxed it was almost ridiculous. She fiddled around with some equipment, I started to read my book (not fainting), and the nurse wandered off.

A minute or two later, she came back, and I realized that my machine was going beep-beep-beep. She fiddled around with my arm briefly, and the beeping stopped. She wandered away again. But a minute or two later... beep-beep-beep.

"Again?" she said. This time, another nurse came over with her and they consulted each other about what to do. They made micro-alterations to the angle of my wrist and debated the merits of the foam cushions.

"What does the beep-beep-beep mean?" I asked, curious.

"It means the blood flow is low," the second nurse replied.

Either I shouldn't have asked, or the timing was sheer coincidence. I started feeling hot and light-headed. My relaxed state gave way to panic.

"Uh, ok, and now I'm starting to freak out," I said.

In a matter of moments, my feet were in the air, I had cool, damp cloths on my arms and neck and forehead, and a fan aimed at my face. There must have been four nurses peering with concern down at me. They gave me instructions to keep my eyes open. A nurse introduced herself, asked my name, reminded me to keep my eyes open.

"Has this ever happened before?" she asked.

"Yeee-eeesss," I groaned.

All the nurses chuckled. "She says it with such conviction," they tittered.

So.

Eventually they removed the damp cloths and slowly put me back into a normal sitting position. I noticed that the tube with the blood was long gone. The nurse who had taken charge lingered to talk to me. "How do you feel now?" she asked.

"Fine," I replied.

"But you're crying," she pointed out.

It's hard to dispute a statement like that. So she talked to me for a while and made me feel appreciated and not like a loser. She even forcefully told me not to worry about the empty juice box I had proceeded to drop on the floor and then deliberately left it there while we talked to demonstrate that it didn't matter how wrong things had gone and that I was the most important priority at the time.

"You know," she said warmly, "My recommendation is that you take some time. Give yourself a year, and then think hard about trying again. Take a break."

"It's been over a year since last time," I reminded her. "It didn't work then, either."

"Oh," she said, voice falling flat. She looked at me knowingly. "You know, there are other ways you can be involved and help us." She recommended that I bake cookies for my students to coax them into donating and gave me some pamphlets so that I could make lessons out of them.

This nurse was obviously very well-trained and skilled at making people feel good about themselves in the face of their own failures. All in all, while this third attempt to donate proved to be another disaster, I left feeling like it was a really good place, almost a happy place, full of nice people and sunshine.

I strongly encourage you to try to donate some blood. Probably you won't teeter on the edge of consciousness, like me. But if you do, I am quite confident that you'll find it's not nearly as awful as you expect it to be (so long as you do inform them that you're going to pass out and don't merely pass out without warning, although in that case you wouldn't be experiencing much embarrassment, either).

So that's my tag line, and my clinching argument to get you to donate: It's not nearly as awful as it could be! Am I not a master of persuasion?

I got home. Mom said, "I thought you were being a tad optimistic when you left." Dad said, "I get woozy at just the thought of giving blood." Mom said, "If they call us again, we'll tell them to please stop calling us to ask our daughter to come faint in their clinic."

This might be the last time I do battle with the blood-sucking machines. But you, reading this, please make up for what my body seemingly won't allow me to do, if you can. Go donate blood. At least, try. If you fail, we can laugh at ourselves and commiserate together.

*****

My boss, when I told her how my body wouldn't give up its blood: "Doesn't it feel good to know that your selfishness goes all the way down to your bones?"

Tuesday, 21 June 2016

The Earliest Dreams

I'd like to tell you about how my imagination functioned as a small child.

I don't remember my very earliest dreams, but I do remember one particularly early and recurring nightmare. This is the earliest dream I can remember having, when wee me was just a squirt of about four years of age, living in Regina.

In my dream, I was wearing my nighties, running down the hallway from my bedroom, down the stairs, and further into the dark void of the basement. As I ran, humongous plastic hamburgers and french fries* leapt out at me from the shadows. They had eyes and mouths. They all opened their mouths and threw me silent roars and hisses. It was horrifying.

The second recurring bad dream I can recall centered around an orange-haired doll I had**. She was big - must have been at least 2/3 my size. Her hair always struck me as a bit wild, but her eyes! They opened and closed depending on how she was tilted. I never liked to look at those green glass eyes because I was worried they'd open of their own accord.

I distinctly recall dreaming that this doll was chasing me down the hallway toward the living room. She lumbered after me (she was a bit fat), with thunderous side-to-side leaps. I felt dizzy watching her come, with the way the world seemed to tip and tilt as her feet hit the ground.

I don't remember many particulars of any really awesome dreams I had as a small kid, except to say that sometimes I lulled myself to sleep by imagining that I, my cousin Aimee, and a few other (now forgotten) friends were superheroes with red boots, capes, flight capabilities, and a home base on top of a telephone pole. We were called the "Savers". We'd zoom through the sky and, you know, save people.

Hamburgers no longer hold any terror for me, but zooming around still occasionally features in my current dreams. Except now, I'm powered by handheld cylinders which contain genetically-altered fetuses capable of flight. And dolls that open their eyes still creep me out.

"We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light." Plato



*Think enormously oversized McDonald's Happy Meal toys. I did a quick Google search and lo and behold! Here is the demon hamburger that terrorized my early childhood:
Admittedly, modern me has to agree that the fabric version is actually kinda cute.
**I seem to recall, but can't state as absolute fact, that years after, my mother once remarked that this doll was hideous and why did we have it?

Tuesday, 14 June 2016

My Athletic Prowess

I uh... found.... this article about the mini-chuckwagon races from the other day. I'm not convinced it's entirely accurate, but the part about me winning got it right!
INCREDIBLY ATHLETIC TEACHER WINS MINI-CHUCKWAGON RACE
Famous Newspaper
June 11, 2016

The local radio station, in co-operation with sponsors, once again held its annual mini-chuckwagon race. Nearly forty competitors tested their mettle against one another in the parking lot of a local grocery store, trying to win $1500 for charity, racing their wagon-laden tricycles around a track lined with hay.

The ultimate winner, Carla Heinrichs, representative of Medicine Hat College, is a veteran of mini-chuckwagon racing, having placed second in the final round last year. "Well, how about that?" said the event's organizer, John Petrie, when he learned of her previous experience. "Nobody remembers second place. We didn't even recognize her when she came early to practice." When asked to comment before the race, Heinrichs stated that "I couldn't keep myself away this year. My job is hanging in the balance." Pressed further, she was heard to mutter, "I just hope I'm covered by WCB if this turns into a flaming wreck."

Many of her colleagues came out to support her, feeling obligated to do so after having unanimously voted her to be the college's representative during her absence at a staff meeting. And if it hadn't been for one of those colleagues, Mary Incho, Heinrichs may have been absent at the race itself, as well. "I've rarely missed a year at the mini-chucks," Incho said, all smiles as she waited for the races to begin, "but somehow the coaches forgot to tell Heinrichs the time and place of the event. Fortunately, I fixed that." She shook her head. "We don't have a brilliant history," she admitted, "But I saw our athlete on her practice run. She was going really fast. We stand a real chance."

The less-than-brilliant history to which Incho refers is a dry spell that extends back to the very birth of the mini-chuckwagon race. Dave Volek, athlete recruiter and team manager, was kind enough to report the college's history of failures, and the faculties responsible for them:

2008 Front Office: Failure
2009 Open Learning Center: Failure
2010 Nursing: Won one heat, so let's listen to Lorrie gloat once again
2011 Library: Failure
2012 Cafeteria: Failure
2013 Student: Utter Failure 
2014 Residence: Failure but we sure looked good.
2015 ESL: Honor and Glory!!!!!!!! Second place!!!

Volek also offered us a peek at the rigorous training regimen that prepared Heinrichs for Friday's event. Heinrichs was busy doing crunches and dumbbell curls with her coaches from the wee hours of the morning before classes every day. It also included running obstacle courses to the horticultural station and back, among other things.

"I can't believe they put electrified plates in the floor to teach me not to put my feet on the ground," grumbled Heinrichs. When questioned about whether this might not be a breach of fire code regulations, Reg Radke, campus manager, grimaced. "I've been trying very hard to turn a blind eye to that," he admitted.

The qualifying heat saw Heinrichs, in the first lane, fairly fly. She pulled across the finish line with a time of just over 14 seconds. Meanwhile, her personal photographer, Michele Labrie, pushed her way unashamedly through the crowd to find the perfect spot for filming. Heinrichs's victory was doubtlessly due to Labrie's screams of "GO CARLA!!!" from behind the camera.

Heinrichs was a clear front-runner for the semi-finals, with every other competitor earning times of no less than 17 seconds. Yet, one of her coaches, Jaynette Dueck, still keenly remembered the college's past defeats. "Don't get overconfident," she warned Heinrichs while giving the athlete a massage. "All it takes is one penalty and it'll all be over."

In the semi-finals, Heinrichs, again in the first lane, narrowly missed garnering that deadly penalty by nearly touching a barrel, but in the end she sailed home once more, with a time of 16 seconds. "Hm," said Labrie, "Not as good." Nevertheless, she graciously gave Heinrichs a high-five. "Gotta keep the athlete's spirits up," she intimated as Heinrichs returned to her crew.

When asked to which charity the college would donate the $1500 winnings if Heinrichs triumphed, her entire crew blinked blankly. "Oh gosh," said Radke, "I guess we ought to start thinking about that." He rubbed his neck. "Given our history of dismal failures, we've never had to think about that before. Somewhere local, I guess." Dueck added, "Last year, when she got second place, we were just stunned. But, now it's looking like it might possibly happen. If she doesn't do something stupid like put her foot down or crash and die."

We also asked how Heinrichs managed to break the 17 second barrier so easily, when every other competitor seemed to fly off their seat in the attempt. Heinrichs just shrugged and shook her head. "I'm basically glued in place," she said. "I couldn't fly off if I wanted to. That Lorrie made me wrap my seat in grippy cupboard liner." Lorrie Clizbe, the only other college athlete to have ever had any success at the mini-chuckwagons, piped up, "Yes! That's me! That's me! I told her to do that! I slid off my seat in my second heat in 2010 because I was going too fast. How can you even lose a race by going too fast?!" In reply, Volek made an agonized sound and added, "I really hope that Carla wins. Maybe it will stop Lorrie from gloating about her ancient victory of one heat forever. But I doubt it."

The final race saw Heinrichs facing off against three other speedy tricyclers, this time from the position of the second lane. The cyclers sat at the starting line, poised like panthers, ready to throw all their power into those John Deere pedals. The announcer built up the tension, hanging over the audience the question of the college's soon-to-be discovered fate. Then the air horn sounded. Heinrichs made a strong start, corrected the dangerous error of her previous race, and rocketed across the finish line in just 14 seconds. Her crew and her students, who were also there to cheer her on, were ecstatic with delight.

"I already knew she's the best teacher in Canada," one of her students reported, dancing with joy, "But now I know that she's the best at everything."

Asked how she felt, Heinrichs groaned. "My butt's already sore from the seat," she remarked, "But at least I know I won't have to ride again next year. John Petrie doesn't like to have repeat winners." Volek didn't appear too put out by the thought of Heinrichs's early retirement from tricycle racing. When last seen, he was already in the exercise room, preparing himself to take her place.

The college will house the mini-chuckwagon trophy until next year and Reg Radke will finalize the decision about where to donate their winnings.

The Qualifying Heat:
  video

The Semi-Final:
video 

The Final:
video

ETA: The winnings are being donated to the local pregnancy care centre.