I’ve been thinking a whole heap lately about adulting, about being a fully-mature human being. Maybe it’s because I just turned 36, or maybe it’s because I’m only months away from being a mom of twins (holy crap) but it has suddenly hit me that I’m well and truly supposed to be a grown-up.
As an adult, I don’t think I’m supposed to be scared of much. I also teach in the most terrifying environment according to most people: junior high. I’m a modern, educated, empowered feminist, and I should be bloody well unstoppable. At least on paper. Spiders are still going to freak me right out when I’m 87. I accept that.
And so, this morning, I decided to finally take care of something I’ve been meaning to do for the longest time. As in years. I just couldn’t bring myself to do it since it involves needles.
I generally make a decision to do something that scares me on a day when I wake up feeling a little gutsier than normal. Anticipating becomes my Waterloo. I’m the girl who finds out she needs a dental procedure and just asks them to take care of it right then and there. Less time to worry benefits me.
So this morning, I called Canadian Blood Services and asked if I could make an appointment to donate for the first time today. Like it was simply meant to be, the only open slot for today was just far enough away that I could leave my house pretty much immediately, get it over with, and go about the rest of my day.
Yeah, I know. It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense that I’m this old, have chugged right through several surgeries, a round of IVF, a zillion blood tests for fertility treatment, and I’m still scared of needles. If I had to categorize it, I don’t think it is as much “fear” as it is utter repulsion. As in needles and what they do disgust me on a visceral level. They are almost as bad as spiders.
But I got myself to the clinic. Parked. Moved my vehicle to the correct area that was free for blood donors. All the time, I was running a personal pep talk loop in my brain. Donating blood feels important to me. The Electrician and I are going to be parents because a truly incredible lady is willing to grow our babies. The least I can do is donate my blood to help save someone else’s baby. A friend’s little girl is having open-heart surgery tomorrow morning. I’d gladly brave the needle if it means someone like that precious kiddo will be okay.
I was doing really well. The initial intake and screening was smooth, and I was actually getting a little bit of a pleasant adrenaline boost. The RN who checked my hemoglobin (really high) complimented my beautiful veins and said I should have a very easy donation. This was all great news. So what if they were super backed up with folks who came from the office to donate in teams. I was a little concerned about the heat in the building, but if the AC is broken, it’s broken. I was wearing my best deodorant.
Besides, I have really great veins for phlebotomy, and I was properly hydrated and empowered as all get out.
I moved from the waiting area with the green chairs, through all the screening steps, into the waiting area with the beige chairs, and finally, it was my turn.
I used my yoga breathing. I kept talking myself through reasons I was going to rock this blood donation thing.
Hey, I learned to inject myself and administered three dozen needles in my belly for our IVF cycle. I have two tattoos. I powered through my egg retrieval procedure lucid because the good drugs didn’t work. I actually like snakes, and even Indiana Jones can’t handle those critters.
I’ve got this. Totally got it. I drank my requisite juice box. I read the pamphlet. No problem. I visualized being finished and having an ice cream.
The young lady who was in charge of my blood was absolutely fantastic. We talked about the fact I have a history of fainting, didn’t want to see or discuss the needle or see the equipment. It was all good. She also commented on my “easy” veins and told me my donation should be over really fast. We’re talking under five minutes of drainage.
She asked me how I wanted to do the actual procedure, and I told her I would take a deep breath, then blow it out slowly. Once I started to exhale, she’d get things rolling.
There was a pretty good poke, but to be honest it hurt less than the finger stick to check my hemoglobin. I kept focusing on my breathing and felt relieved the worst part was over.
This is the point where the squeamish among you stop reading. Fair warning.
After about a minute, my vision went the way it does when I put in a good dose of eye drops. Then I felt a huge rush of intense heat and all the voices around me sounded like they were underwater.
“Um, hey,” I said, “I’m suddenly feeling…extremely light-headed.”
The whole room, still sort of swimming, started to look washed-out. Picture an old photo displayed too close to a sunny window.
“We have to stop. We gotta stop right now,” the nice blood lady said. I felt her start dealing with all the equipment, while a couple of other workers came trotting over. They were hollering about tipping me back so I was flatter and told me to uncross my ankles. I didn’t want to quit, since I was through the hardest part, but the blood ladies said it was procedure and I had no choice.
“I might throw up,” I mumbled. The women started asking where the barf bags were and found there were none available in the nearest stations. I felt really gross. Like, “I want my mom” gross.
All this drama was unfolding in a big room with nine other people calmly donating blood, staying fully conscious and in control of their peristalsis. I guess I was the afternoon’s entertainment.
I’m sure the search for a suitable bag into which I could be sick took under a minute, but by the time one reached me, vomiting had moved from a possibility to a certainty. Thankfully, the wonderful woman with the dark ponytail reached me just in time.
I puked my guts out in a room filled with strangers. Because I was partly reclined when it happened, I also experienced the added bonus of vomiting out of my nose. Workers were coming with cold cloths and trying to help the original blood woman get me all disconnected. I was a mess on every level.
When the nausea subsided, my original blood professional started talking to me about how I could try again in November, and that they got enough to do a little something with, including completing my full donor screen and telling me my blood type. So at least Canadian Blood Services got a few tablespoons of my red.
We discussed that this isn’t the first time I’ve thrown up and felt like I could pass out in a needle-type situation. Apparently some people’s fight or flight response overloads and turns into a “pass out or puke” reaction. It’s involuntary and there is nothing we can do. We’re a small but memorable group who will never go skydiving.
I was still way too warm, and felt like I was soaked in sweat. When my lovely blood helper started moving the detritus around, she realized the garbage bag they brought me had somehow been torn at the bottom, so it really didn’t do much to contain the situation. Lovely. While I publicly brought up my breakfast and tried not to cry from frustration, vomit was trickling through the rip in the plastic, down my ribcage, and into my jeans. Awesome.
They brought out the bleach to start dealing with the floor and other surfaces while I sat in the donation chair, waiting for the required five minutes to pass before they were allowed to let me stand up. Oh yes. If Tarantino did vomit movies, he’d want me in a leading role.
The poor guy seated across from me was also there for his first visit and sat down after me. I don’t think I helped him feel more confident about his donation.
I was asked to spend another ten minutes in the snack area, where I was able to find a table alone and position myself strategically so the worst of the carnage on my clothes faced away from the more successful donors.
I went to the car, had a ten second cry, called my momma, and headed home.
The Electrician tells me I overshare. Fair enough. But maybe the other folks out there who have had a really negative experience during a medical or dental procedure will relate.
My friend commented today that I am like the fainting goat of the human sphere. If things ever got really hairy, like a velociraptor attack at an outdoor concert, I’d collapse and/or throw up, sacrificing myself to allow others to escape. I’m doing my part to ensure the continuation of our species, folks. You’re welcome.
I plan to try again in November. I am actually really disappointed that I can’t regroup and take a blood donation mulligan in a couple days. Suddenly, this procedure feels like something I really need to conquer.
I hope whatever you did, today was a pleasant day. If if wasn’t a terribly great one, please know that I feel you, friend. After all, I drove myself home with barf in my underwear.