Why You Should Give Blood But I Should Not
My parents’ house was always decorated with swaths of blood bank superstar paraphernalia. Probably the best of the bunch was an oversized T-shirt with three cartoon frogs seemingly chanting “blood,” “do” and “nor.” One Christmas, M&D accumulated so many blood donor flip-flops, they were all my male friends got as gifts. But I digress. They each donate five gallons a year or whatever to save babies and bigger people. Even my dad, who was deathly afraid of needles.
I have tattoos. I couldn’t use the excuse that needles freak me out because, well, those and I have an amicable history. So when I crossed paths with a blood mobile on my college campus some years back, I felt obligated to join the line to donate.
Feeling too philanthropic too soon, I spotted and invited over two acquaintances to get down with the giving, too. I should also take a moment to mention that the ideal weight of a blood donor falls around 110 or 115 lbs. I averaged about 100 to 105 throughout college.
Once in, I lied about my weight. I mean, I was a tough, 20-year-old bitch. I could deal. Then the nurse pricked my right finger. My iron was too low. (Band-Aide count: 1.) She tried another on my left hand to get a better reading (Band-Aide count: 2) and I was in.
I laid down on a very intimate cot alongside my fellow co-eds—mostly frat dudes and their girlfriends—and a nurse wedged a needle into my vein. It wasn’t easy for her to find and she did a little needle excavating in my arm to find one. Someone handed me a stress ball to squeeze to get things rolling a bit more quickly. Apparently my blood drained too slowly still and it was decided to try my right arm instead. (Band-Aide count: 3.)
I moved to another cozy cot and got a new needle. (Band-Aide count: 4.) I had spent my time in line only moments earlier day—dreaming of a burrito pit-stop on my bike ride home. Suddenly the idea of ingesting that or anything else made me feel queasy. I felt the blood sucking from my body. Each squeeze of the (also, I should point out I was given only half because apparently I have impressively tiny fists) stress ball brought more awareness toward the stick in my arm’s soft spot. About half the bag was full. I felt confident about my charitable decision to give.
And then everything looked like A Scanner Darkly. Nurses and bros moved like stoned cartoon characters. I turned to one of the girls with whom I entered this evil van and she made a horrified face. “I….” I started. “You know, let’s scratch lunch.” My friend called over the nurse who then waved sniffing salts in my face as if I were an eccentric drunk aunt character on a family cruise. Next someone swaddled me in a blanket and forced me to ingest an entire can of Coke. My blood bag got tossed into a scary-looking trashcan. The woman who did so told me they couldn’t hang onto anything less than completely full.
Waded up like a deflated worm on my cot, I took in the expression on all the dudes’ faces in there. It looked like pure fear. OK, maybe mostly fear spiked with nausea. The blood bandits kept me captive for 15 minutes until I lied and said my roommate would pick me up from school.
Embarrassed and defeated, I biked the back roads home solo. I only fell once. But it’s cool—no one saw.
Several months later, I decided to try this blood donation thing again. I mean, this time I’d eat a bagel beforehand, OK? My roommate agreed to come with and her boyfriend drove us to the blood bank for early morning drainage.
This time my iron kicked ass. I made a mental note to gloat to my mother who thought my vegetarianism would surely turn me anemic.
The trainee guy with the needle commented on my screwy treble clef wrist tattoo post-reading. “Oh, music, huh?” he eloquently began.
“Uh, yeah. Hah.”
“I’m learning to play guitar.”
“Very neat. Good luck with that.”
Some bullshit later, I was horizontal again, alongside an overly chatty girl who felt very nervous about the needle.
“Oh, it’s no big,” I told her. “I mean… I almost passed out last time but that was only because I was hungry.” She looked unconvinced. So I confidently asserted: “I ate Panera earlier.” Placated, she turned her talky head toward her friend and redirected her verbose gunfire.
“Okie doke,” the beginning guitarist was back. He flicked up a poppy vein to poke and did so. This place gave me a whole ball (!!) and the bloodsucking began.
After a brief wander, John Mayer Jr. was back and took my holey arm. Lightly running his fingertips along it, he delicately broke into one of his greatest hits. “I want to run through the halls of my high school,” he softly began. “I want to scream at the top of my lungs…”
I wanted to scream at the top of my lungs. Not only was I not too keen on his arm tickle, I fucking hate John Mayer.
The next thing I knew I awoke from a very intense dream in which I was zooming through space. I woke to a ring of faces staring into mine and tried desperately to piece together what had happened and where I was. The hospital? Oh my God. Did I get into a car crash? I knew I shouldn’t have driven home from that party!
When I realized I’d just slipped from consciousness from blood loss (yeah, I lied about my weight again), I was just pissed. I’d filled the bag about a quarter of the way and had no warning about my imminent trip to Faintsville. So another few cups of my DNA went out with the banana peels and molding Abs of Steel VHSs.
I hope to be able to donate again once the effects of my craft beer adoration take shape on my shape. But until then, I steer clear of needles unless they’re full of ink. And John Mayer. I absolutely avoid him.
However, if you’re able, you should totally donate. It’s good and important and you can find more info on how to get involved via Red Cross.