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.
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?"