July 25, 2006

My Bloody Oath

SO ON THURSDAY, I went down to my local blood donation center and gave blood for the first time. I realize the apparent generosity of such an act may prompt surprise among some of my readers, but I can assure you the reward for donating – in this case, a decent barbecue dinner – represented a fair exchange for my pint of A-negative. Besides, a good guy in my trade union organized the drive, so I thought attending would be nice.

The only downside to the whole affair was that my body and mind were not on the same plane about the donation. My mind’s train of thought went something like this: donate blood, help people in need, perform public service. My body’s train of thought went like this: donate blood, get stuck with really large needle, have precious bodily fluids sapped and impurified. Must – resist – Communist – subversion.

I don’t know why my body has this autonomous resistance to needles. Sometimes I wonder if it has something to do with my long hospitalization as a newborn, in which I was stuck with IV needles for something like three months. Whatever the cause, my subconscious resistance is real and documented. I’ve even been told that, as a child, I once ripped out an IV needle placed in my arm and threw it at a doctor. The fact I was on an operating table at the time, and out cold under a general anaesthetic, was apparently not enough to stop my body from resisting.

Now that I’m an adult, and much more used to unpleasantness, I don’t consciously have any issues with needles, or various nasty medical items like surgical tape or that foul-smelling iodine solution they use to prevent infection. Unfortunately, I also don’t have any accessible veins close to the surface of my arms. As a result, whenever I have blood drawn for tests, I have the technician draw it from one of my hands with a smaller “butterfly” needle. This is much simpler and easier for all concerned.

They don’t draw blood with butterfly needles.

Now, the blood donation process is actually very easy. You go in and fill out some forms. Then you go through a survey with a technician in which you are asked a variety of questions, generally dealing with whether you have one or more godawful diseases, many of which you have never heard. Particularly if you’ve traveled.

TECHNICIAN: Do you have Chagas’ disease?
ME: No – uh, do I have what?
TECHNICIAN: It’s from some bugs in Mexico.
ME: Ah. Uh, no.

After this is all done, you go lie on a “bed” (that is to say, a glorified lawn chair), another technician comes to draw your blood, sticks a needle in your arm, and checks back in ten minutes. Unless you’re like me, in which case it takes a while for the technician to actually find a usable vein, and the vein is so deep that the technician has no choice but to jab and shift the needle back and forth to draw blood. Then, instead of just leaving you to bleed quietly, the technician has to spend all her time making sure the blood keeps flowing, because your vein might run dry (for some reason, I’ve had this happen as well).

The good news, though, is that I was able to successfully complete my donation. Now, someone in need will end up with my pint of A-negative. Meanwhile, I got a decent barbecue dinner from this place. I also got a nasty bruise on my arm – but that’s a small price to pay for good North Carolina-style barbecue.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at July 25, 2006 10:21 PM | TrackBack
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