The first time I gave blood quickly became the last time I gave blood. (Unless- of course- someone I know is in dire need, I guess I can suck it up and try to do it again- but I will bitch to you about it.)
Recently, a good friend of mine was hospitalized. All of his friends scrambled to do anything they could for him and his family but, as is almost always the case, there was little to be done at the time when he was worst off. Our options of help ranged from bringing baked goods, to providing moral support, to donating blood. Despite my debilitating fear of needles and everything related to them, I had done everything else on the support forefront and wanted to do more. I decided to give blood. I would like to point out that after I have to get a shot or get blood drawn, I call 3-5 people to tell them what I just did and that I survived. No amount of smiley face stickers or shitty lollipops can give me the "pat on the back" that I need after I interact with a needle- only generous amounts of self driven positive verbal feedback will do.
I knew the only way I was going to be able to donate was if I had constant moral support. A coworker of mine, Rachel, was also going to give blood, so we made plans to go during lunch. I was incredibly nervous and was not sure what state I would be in afterwards, so I asked her to drive. She is apparently a pro at blood drives, so I distractedly talked and asked her questions during the ride to the hospital. Much like that time I went snorkeling, the lead up to that time I gave blood became a jumble of far off gazes, imagining the worst case scenarios, and bursts of rapid speech intermingled with moments of quiet panic.
We got to the blood drive and Rachel let me go first so I wouldn't have to sit in sheer terror any longer. After they scanned my license, they sent me to a makeshift cubicle where a woman pricked my finger and rambled off the longest laundry list of questions ever. I could barely focus enough to answer questions like my date of birth, much less "Have you lived with anyone in the past 5 years that may have shared needles with someone that may have visited Africa since 1993?" Apparently I said everything I needed to say because I was directed to a group of cots set up as the blood donation station. I grabbed a cot by the window- hoping a view of something would distract me from the needle that was about to be stuck in my arm and sat there while my mouth went dry and my palms got sweaty.
Two doctors grabbed seats on the other cots at about the same time I did. One of them, lightly laughing, let the nurse know that he had never given blood before and that he was a little nervous. This did not help my case. How is this man- who is surrounded with tubes, blood, needles, blood, sick people, gross human stuff, and blood every day at work nervous!? If he's nervous- I need should be FREAKING OUT right now. Oh wait- I am. The nurse, having picked up on my emotions, let him know "Baby- you don't have anything to be nervous about. Besides- you think you're nervous? Look at this one- here- she won't even look at me." Damn, she was good.
The two nurses got to work on their assembly line style blood drive. They got everything going on the two doctors and made their way over to me. When one of them ripped open the antiseptic wipe, I almost levitated. As they set up the needle and started drawing blood, I tried to focus on good things. I stared lazily at the palm tree outside the window and slowly closed my eyes as I realized I was sweating. Like seriously sweating. Like pooling in my belly button and dripping from my ponytail sweating. The nurse hurried over to me. "Oh no, baby- you can't close your eyes. Stay awake. You gotta calm down." She rummaged around in an ice chest and came at me with three ice bags- two for my neck and chest and one for my head. As she packed me in ice like a seafood display, I heard "Is she OK?" coming from the "nervous" Doctor. I was making a damn sweaty scene.
I looked at her, tried my best power of persuasion, and told her "I want to stop." "Uh-uh you can't stop now. You have to finish. Just relax. This isn't a big deal. What are you so afraid of?" I turned my attention back outside and kept thinking "I'm going to puke all of those potatoes I ate for lunch."
I hadn't eaten lunch yet. I was high off of giving blood.
As I finished up, a nurse sat on the cot beside me to give blood. She was eyeing me and explaining that she had never done it before and was kind of nervous. (GREAT- WANT TO JOIN THE CLUB!?) The nurse running the station told her not to worry about it- and don't worry about me- I was a paid actress. They got me over there so people could see the worst case scenario.
I queasily smiled at the two and tried to joke "they're not paying me enough." Or that's what I was going for. Instead, I'm pretty sure I looked and sounded something like "Sloth" from Goonies.
The moment finally came that I was done being drained and I hobbled away from the cot as quickly as I could. Rachel, who started after me, and was done ten minutes before me was there with moral support and cookies and O.J. and candy.
As I made my way through a bag of Famous Amos, I decided I would stick to baked goods and moral support from here on out. At least I'm good at one of those.