As you may remember, I tried to donate blood in August and was defeated by my squeamishness toward needles in combination with a variety of other factors, including summer heat.
When I say defeated, I mean to the calling my mother crying while I drove myself home with vomit (mine) in my underwear level of failure. I suggest you read that post if you have questions.
Here’s the thing: I don’t like to fail. I’m just fine with the whole “try, try again” business, but in the end, I much prefer to mark at least one win on my record. So much so that I booked my next blood donation appointment as soon as I was permitted to through the Canadian Blood Services website.
At the time, only a few days had passed since my messy and memorable first attempt. I was so frustrated with myself for not doing what I set out to do that I would have gone right back down there to try giving blood again. Sadly, there are rules in place that restrict females to donating no fewer than 84 days apart. I booked a 6:45 appointment for this past Friday, November 23.
This time, The Electrician was home and drove me to the appointment. I appreciate having my awesome husband as wing man for the procedure.
I don’t see why the folks working at Canadian Blood Services need to wear red scrub tops as uniforms. I mean, I totally understand that red kind of fits the whole theme, but there are a few would-be donors among us who might not to be reminded of the gritty details.
I have tattoos and piercings. I somehow completed an IVF cycle doing all my own injections. Blood itself, as a substance, doesn’t bother me. I have no trouble addressing first aid situations. Unfortunately, the thought of a needle removing my blood, or introducing a substance into my body, makes me squirm, and causes me to sweat between my toes.
A delightfully brusque nurse in crimson took my name and stuck a “Be nice to me” sticker on my chest, since it was technically my first donation. We chatted briefly about how things went last time, and she informed me that if either the fainting or the puking were to happen again, I would be precluded for life from donating blood.
But no pressure, right?
To be fair, she was actually really sweet in a cranky lunch lady kind of way about the fact that some humans are just not capable of giving blood, because as much as their hearts say it’s a good thing to save other people, their lizard brains go into high-alert and shut it all down. Sometimes with vomit.
Donors need to complete a digital survey via tablet at every appointment before the process moves forward. I had to answer “yes” to numerous questions.
A doctor’s appointment or medical treatment within a specified time frame? Yep. Ribs that turned out to be badly sprained, but not broken.
Have I had acupuncture in the last six months? How about the last 48 hours? Migraine, be gone!
A vaccination within the last six months? Uh huh. I was a responsible person and got my flu shot last weekend.
Have I ever experienced epileptic seizures or fainting? Damn. Negative on the seizures but I have definitely fainted–the last time I was in this very clinic, in fact.
After the quiz, a woman called me into a cubicle-sized room to discuss my answers and to check a few things before I went on to the draining station. I enjoyed one of the Lifesavers candies on her desk while we waded through the formalities.
This is where things got frustrating. The woman who was helping me was not as highly-trained as the RNs who checked me in or who did my private chat last time. She needed to look up all of my “yes” answers in a massive three-ring binder. We don’t see many giant binders of information in our digital age, and watching her leaf through it looking for how to record my sprained ribs reminded me of my deep gratitude for online data.
Susan, the RN who gave me my original “second strike and you’re ‘banned’ forever” speech, was brought in to confirm details. The woman with the binder who was entering information had already repeated the spiel, which helped me double both my determination and my nerves.
Finally, Susan confirmed that all was well and I could attempt to donate as planned. (But, of course, if it didn’t go well, I could never try a third time.)
My blood pressure was a snick higher than usual but remarkably good for such a stressful event. Next was the finger poke to check my hemoglobin. I commented that I didn’t even feel it this time and how much it stung last time. The woman squinted at my very much intact finger tip and announced that the first poke failed to break my skin. Her mulligan was not painless.
I apparently have incredible hemoglobin levels; just another happy side-effect of getting rid of my uterus.
When I intially checked in at the clinic, a friend from my barbershop chorus was also just arriving to donate. This would be her 132nd donation. She was not nervous in any way.
It just so happened that my friend, the premiere champion blood donor of Northern Alberta, was finishing up her procedure just as I sat down. She came to chat with me shortly after my draining started.
And I was not, was not, was not, thinking about what was happening over at my right arm. As long as I didn’t think about it, the whole thing was actually not so bad.
I squeezed the squishy thing and I looked to the left and I talked about the Grey Cup with my friend. I honestly don’t understand football, but it was certainly a preferable topic to what was happening in my other hemisphere.
Six minutes after the big jab, I was finished. A glorious victory.
The incredibly kind phlebotomist who was looking after me asked me to hold something soft over my needle site. I turned to make sure I had the cotton firmly over the spot, and looked up at her.
She had this ridiculously long, remarkably sharp needle still in her gloved hand. My blood was on that needle.
I turned the other direction to return to my conversation. I was feeling pretty okay before seeing that stupid javelin. Before I had a chance to remind myself that I am one of the brave souls who teach junior high by choice, and that one needle shouldn’t bother me, especially after it was done with me, I started to feel way too warm.
I was suddenly overheating in a major way, and all my nerves were dancing in a strange way. You know how it feels when you get a cold chill and all your goosebumps show up to the party? Like that, but itchier and creepier. It was really unpleasant.
At this point, The Electrician arrived at my classy vinyl lounger. Apparently, while he observed from afar as we’d previously agreed, he decided it might be time to head in my direction when he looked up and I was Kleenex white.
My stomach started rolling and I started to worry.
I caught the attention of the same young lady that had given me the cotton ball instructions and asked to be cooled off, as fast as possible. She was aware of how things went last time, and, surprise surprise, had reminded me that I would be precluded if this draw went poorly before we started. Thankfully, she moved really quickly to point a fan at my face, and someone else draped a cool cloth over my neck.
In the rush, the second cool cloth intended for my forehead hit the floor. A replacement arrived soon after.
I did those practiced, regulated yoga breaths, faked calmness, and wiggled my toes inside my shoes. Impalement woman brought me a lukewarm juice box, kindly checking first to be sure it didn’t contain banana.
Oh man. I just realized in writing this that me sticking the straw into the juice box in pursuit of its contents was eerily similar to me donating blood. Blech.
In what can only be described as a Black Friday miracle, my horrid, icky feeling started to fade within two minutes.
My fantastic, inspirational friend who was also there to donate stuck right with me. I feel it was serendipitous she had an appointment at the same time as mine.
A few minutes later, they tipped me up a little more. My head was above my feet for the first time since we started. Five minutes later, I was encouraged to sit all the way up and dangle my legs off the chair. I was tired, but feeling otherwise fine.
We celebrated with a cookie at the refreshment area. Donation one, complete.
I am proud of myself for getting through the blood giving process. It’s been on my bucket list of things I feel I need to do for a really long time. Hopefully, my pint of O+ makes a difference for someone who needs it. I fully expect that my next donation will go even more smoothly, and perhaps I’ll ask for the cold cloth earlier on, just in case.
Especially following all the hard things we’ve needed to do in the past little bit, winning at this one hard thing means a lot to me.