Today, I gave blood for the very first time.
I would like to say that it was a perfectly benign experience, and, mostly, it was, but there were some very dramatic details that will not surprise anyone who knows me (and my tendency towards catastrophe).
I will proceed to outline those details below.
But first, I will back up, as I always do, and remind you all that I've never given blood before, which I'm sure you remember, since you read it, um, three paragraphs ago.
I've always been afraid of giving blood. Technically, I signed up to give blood two years ago, while I was living in Texas, but just when I was on the verge of chickening out, lightning and thunder struck the little town of Big Sandy and they canceled the blood drive due to inclement weather. I considered it to be straight-up divine intervention. This time, it took two or three
days weeks of negotiations and bribery to convince me to do it. (I negotiated that dad would go along with me, if I agreed to go; the bribery involved Emily allowing me a one-day pass to cheat on our diet, if I gave blood.)
But finally I signed up, after spending several days worrying and researching blood-donation tips on Google (please refrain from making any comments about me having too much time on my hands). I was especially traumatized after an incident on Sunday, during which Jay and John McCreadie were discussing various medical procedures involving various large needles; finally when I started shuddering, they changed their advice to: "Nicole, just don't look at the needle, and you'll be fine." And if any of you are my friends on Facebook (P.S. If you're not, please stop reading and add me immediately. I like becoming friends. Thank you.), you probably noticed that I posted a status message, last night, soliciting advice from my friends. A sampling of that advice I got follows here:
"Don't eat anything before, make sure you're as dehydrated as possible when you get there; ask to see and inspect the needle before you get poked. Then insist on watching the needle. Oh, also, ask for the least-experienced person there….just tell them you are doing a science experiment."
"Just before they stick it to you make sure you have a mouthful of pop rocks to give you that "mad dog" foaming look and then scream like you're giving birth. It also helps if you can turn your head in circles."
As you can see, I have a VERY knowledgeable and helpful set of friends.
Anyway, this morning, I arrived at the snack station first, (it was RIGHT NEXT TO THE DOOR! Honest!) and apparently the guy thought I was going to try to snag a snack BEFORE the ordeal because he quickly directed me to the sign-in sheet. I moved onto my proper place, where the proctor (proctor?) asked me a series of questions such as, "Do you have a Donor ID card?" "What is your name and date of birth?" and, "Do you want your glasses on while I take your picture?"
She took my picture with a little web-cammy-thing that looked like it was something they would use to record Osama Bin Laden's occasional broadcasts to the faithful. It had a bunch of wiring, it was round, it looked like an eyeball, and I think I blinked when she took my picture.
My donor ID card is going to look horrible, I already know it.
The proctor asked me, "Have you had any water today?"
"Yes," I said.
"Seventy ounces." (Yes, I kept track.)
She looked at me boredly. "Do you want any more?"
No, lady, I'm SWIMMING.
About this time, I heard my dad filling out his questionnaire next to me, and he was apparently discussing the proper technique with his proctor. "Can I fill in 1/3 of the 'Caucasian' bubble and 2/3 of another bubble, if I'm only 1/3 Caucasian?" he asked her. She had no sense of humor, and just stared at him blankly and said, "Whaaat?"
He also, in jest, said that it was gender discrimination to have only "M" and "F" as gender options. MY proctor overheard him and got all defensive and said, "Well, you never KNOW."
We had some explaining to do.
Well, he did. But since I'm his daughter, I always write 'we'.
Isn't that quaint?
Then I moved onto the Finger Poke stage of the proceedings. I'd been warned numerous times that it was going to be the worst part of the whole experience, and so I was paranoid until they actually poked my finger, and then supremely relieved, because I never even felt the poke (I was laughing at my dad who was still trying, unsuccessfully, to humor his proctor).
Turns out, though, the finger poke wasn't the worst part.
It couldn't be that easy.
The next station on my journey to save lives was the dreaded MEDICAL HISTORY EXAMINATION.
Now, let me say this little nostalgic fact: I remember being with my mom, when she used to give blood. They used to always hand her a piece of paper and say that the answers were completely confidential, and that she was to fill them out, and that if she answered "yes" to any of the important "Have you ever…" questions, she was free to discreetly leave without offering an explanation or any answers to any live human being.
And it's not like I have any bad medical (or moral) history or anything, but it quickly became clear that my proctor expected to read the questions OUT LOUD to me, and expected me to answer OUT LOUD, which was VERY uncomfortable. Half of the questions, especially about past exploits and wrongdoings, already made me blush, just to HEAR them, let alone having this lady look me in the eye and ask me to elaborate on any potential "bad" answers.
(Just for the record, I answered "no" approximately twenty-five-million times, and I answered "yes" to only two questions, neither of which affected my eligibility. One of them was, "are you healthy"?)
About halfway through the questionnaire, the proctor started mumbling and speaking quietly, and I couldn't tell what she was saying, so I kept asking her to repeat questions. Finally, after one time, I guess she got a little fed up and repeated the question REALLY loudly, where it felt like all of my coworkers could hear exactly what she'd asked.
Of course, that question would happen to be, basically, the most embarrassing question on the whole questionnaire. (No, I will not be repeating it. Thank you. My answer was no.)
After that embarrassing incident was done, there was a guy waving me over to a gurney, where he announced his name (I don't remember what it was), told me that he would be taking my blood, and proceeded to HIT ON ME.
Yes, you are free to comment here, "Nicole, why do ALL WEIRD AND INSANE GUYS LIKE YOU?"
I don't know. I really don't.
I'm resigned to it by now.
Anyway, he hit on me in the following ways: he kept talking to me in this low, very sing-songy voice, gave me long, lingering looks, and told me all sorts of details about his personality, things he feared when he was a child, and told me that he just couldn't help seeing how nervous I was and that it just touched his heart and he wished he could just make it all better for me.
He then gave me the little thing that I was supposed to squeeze, and told me to squeeze it, which I did. Apparently I was squeezing it too hard, because he stopped pumping up the blood pressure cuff to say, "Nicole, think of that little pillow as my heart. Stop squeezing so hard; you don't want to break my heart."
He then said that he found my vein just fine, and was going to have no problem getting the needle in.
But of course, he DID have trouble getting the needle in, which explains why he stuck me once, then said he needed to "rotate my arm" (translation: stick me again) and then said he needed to "rotate the needle" (translation: whoops, one more time).
"Stop squeezing the pillow so hard," he repeated, "You're breaking my heart again."
By that time, I WANTED to break his heart. My arm hurt.
Once he finally had things under control and the life was being sucked out of me, he wandered away to do something, then came back to have a frank chat with me about my level of nervousness, etc. When that conversation came to a dead-end really quickly, an unexpected thing took place.
"Hey There, Delilah" came on the radio. Well, I realize that that's not exactly unexpected; for those of you who have been living under a rock or who have not visited a grocery store in the last six months, you probably wouldn't have recognized the words. But those of you who have will know that, among other things, the lyrics say:
"Hey there Delilah / I know times are getting hard / but just believe me, girl / Someday I'll pay the bills with this guitar." (It also talks pretty much every form of transportation know to man, including planes, trains, cars, and walking. And a girl that is sooooo pretty even though she's a thousand miles away: I've never been able to figure out how he figured out that she was pretty from that far away, but who am I to question love?)
He started gushing, "I love this song!"
And those of you who know how I always get myself into trouble will know exactly what happened next.
He started SINGING "Hey There, Delilah." To me. In front of coworkers. In front of my DAD.
Oh, yes, he did.
My left arm is still sore from my three needle pricks.
I am still mortally embarrassed that the proctor really asked me that question so loudly—even if the answer was no.
I didn't pass out.
I got to cheat on my diet.
And now that I'm over the initial fear, I definitely wouldn't object to giving blood in the future. It was relatively harmless, and I would sure want someone to give blood for me if I needed it.
There are other details to be told, but , really, who can top the whole Hey-There-Delilah thing?
And, by the way, for anyone who was wondering: yes, Mr. Don't-Break-My-Heart should stick with his day job; I don't think he'll be "pay[ing] the bills / with this guitar" anytime soon. His rendition of "Hey There, Delilah" was off-key, involved falsetto, and he hummed through words he didn't know.
All in all, it wasn't nearly so bad as I thought it would be.
I would do it again.
As long as the proctor doesn't ask me about, you know, THAT, in front of everybody.