Dec. 11, 2015
You can’t get blood from a stone. Or a turnip. Or, as it turns out, me. It may be in me to give, as the Canadian Blood Services cheerfully maintains, but good luck getting it out of me. Let me tell you how I know this.
Fourth on the list of my 2015 New Year’s resolutions was this item:
“Donate blood on a regular basis, because I never have and it seems like the sort of thing a grownup would do.”
Accordingly, back in the dark days of January 2015, I went online to sign up only to discover that people my age need a note from their doctor to register. Determined not to let be deterred, I drafted a letter from my doctor, sent it to her along with a stamped, self-addressed envelope (I’m not a submitting writer for nothing) and asked her to sign and return it. She did. I made my appointment, along with an appointment for my husband, who thought he’d like to tag along with me and do a little good. His father is a life-long blood donor. Why not emulate The Old Man?
My first appointment went relatively well. They didn’t get quite all the blood they wanted from me and I did create something of a flap by becoming all woozy. However, I attribute that, at least in part, to having to answer all the nurse’s preliminary questions about the myriad people I hadn’t slept with. My husband, on the other, turned out to be a born blood donor, a natural.
The second time I went, I was awaiting the results of a biopsy and they took a pass on me. Fair enough.
The third time I went, my blood clotted five minutes in and the operation was aborted.
The fourth time I showed up for my appointment, my hemoglobin was too low.
The fifth time, I checked the box for epilepsy, something else and fainting. “Because I have been known to faint,” I told the nurse.
She looked perturbed. “When do you faint?”
“When I stand up suddenly,” I replied. “If I haven’t eaten for a long time. When I’m frightened.“ (I’m like a goat that way. Frighten me and I keel right over.) “Oh, and when I’m having blood drawn."
She frowned. “Did you faint the last time you gave blood?”
“I was woozy.”
“Did they apply cold cloths?”
She shook her head and looked disapproving. Apparently the application of cold cloths was some kind of red line that must not be crossed. “That’s not good,” she said. “If you feel woozy this time, we’re going to have to have a talk.”
I exited the Cubical of Inquisition and, in due time, was ushered to a blood drawing chair by a phlebotomist. Said phlebotomist applied astringent to my cubital fossa (I bet you didn’t know it was called that), tightened a tourniquet around my upper arm, instructed me to make a fist, and went to work with a vengeance.
All to naught.
My spidery little veins eluded her every poke, twisting this way and that, even to the point of flipping completely over. They’re like that that way, wily and quick. “I’m sorry,” the phlebotomist said at last. “It’s your veins. They’re just too small.”
The nurse who had just interviewed me appeared from behind my chair, shaking her head vigorously “No more for her,” she hissed to the phlebotomist, drawing her finger across her throat in the universal gesture of cutting me off for my own good.
My husband appeared by my side, freshly drained and bouncy. “What’s up?” he asked.
“I’m a dud,” I informed him.
“No, you’re not!” the phlebotomist hastened to assure me.
“Yes, I am. I’m a failure at donating blood.”
“Look at it this way,” said my husband. “If you hadn’t decided to become a blood donor, I would have never gotten around to it, and now I’m hooked. I’m never going to not give blood. Like my Dad!”
Gentle Reader, this is how I look at it. Not only do I now not have to worry about vampires, I can also accompany my husband to blood clinics and sit and knit and listen to the podcast of Power and Politics on my ipod, while he pours forth his life’s blood for the good of humanity. No more probing questions or probing needles or cold cloths or bruises or any of the discomforts that attend giving blood. And I can do this secure in the knowledge that I tried.
I think that went well.