I'm a universal donor and have always been pretty healthy (cyberchondria aside), but with a fairly serious fear of needles until a few years ago I've never donated. And as a universal donor and pretty healthy person, I've always felt guilty about that. I've never needed blood myself but several of my family members have and, again, universal donor here.
My fear of needles wasn't nearly as bad as my fear of heights or sharks (another random fact about me -- I'd be perfectly happy if sharks disappeared from the planet), so I worked at it and became rational about being jabbed. However, I still get antsy when I have a needle in me for any length of time. Like for a blood draw; after about a minute, I get panicky and just want it out.
But today, it was as if karma was tapping me on the shoulder, telling me I was lopsided in this particular area. I usually don't go out for lunch, but today I did. When I do go to lunch, I usually don't go into LO proper, but today I did. I went that way to go to a place to which I'd only been to once before.
I haven't worked anywhere in at least ten years (when I was still needle phobic) where they would have had a blood drive in the office and I don't have kids in school and I don't go to church so it's been a decade since I would have had a passive opportunity to donate. This was the first time I've ever seen sandwich-board type signs out on the street advertising a blood drive, plus they had handwritten signs on top of those saying walk-in donors were needed. I always figured you had to make an appointment.
I hadn't eaten much all day so I was fairly hungry on my way to lunch. I knew I couldn't donate on an empty stomach -- I get dizzy and nauseous from a simple blood draw -- so I went and ate and forgot all about it. As I was leaving the restaurant, something reminded me about it; I don't even know what but it popped back into my head: You thought about donating.
So I got into my car and I called the office to see if anyone else there had ever donated because my first question was whether I could do this quickly and get back to work. Only one of three had ever donated before and that had been a long time ago; apparently if you've been to the UK between 1980 and I think 1997 you can't donate because you might have Mad Cow (I gave my coworker a hard time about that one. Mooooo!) and she had been there during that time period. My boss okayed me going if it wouldn't take all that long so off I went to the church to ask the Red Cross folks how long it would take.
They said it would take about an hour. It actually took closer to two, mainly because I was a first-time donor and you have to get all the initial paperwork done. I did all the paperwork, took the quiz confirming that I am a very boring person who has never travelled outside of the U.S. and Canada, never had sex for money, and never drank the blood of any one from Africa or one who has been there lately. At least, on the latter two never in the past 12 months which was the only time frame they were concerned about. Hey, some things have to remain a mystery, right? I laughed when my protein count came back a full point higher than what they needed. I said, I've been eating a lot of meat lately.
They have these cool lawn chair kind of things that they set you up in. Either end can recline depending on which arm you are donating from. I had them check before they got me set up because I was hoping I wouldn't have to do my right arm (I'm right handed) and I've been told I have crappy veins. The phlebotomist confirmed that yes, I have crappy veins but there was a somewhat decent one.... on my right arm. Meh.
Usually they prop you up but for the newbies like me they want to have you lying down in case you have an adverse reaction. I've had my blood pressure completely bottom out before when I was propped up so I would have asked to lie down even if they hadn't suggested it. (All I wanted to do when I started to crash that time was to lay down and that was hard enough with a tiny IV in one arm.) They vamped me up and off we went. Or off I went. The very butch phlebotomist (Marge) told me that I filled my bag in five minutes and change. I felt special, but boy did it seem like much longer than that. Like 30 minutes versus five.
Towards the end I started to feel a tiny bit lightheaded but it wasn't until Marge switched out the bag for the vacutainers (they have to do six) that my antsiness started to kick in and I wanted that needle out of me NOW. I had also just noticed that the thing out of the corner of my eye was a big loop of tubing full of my blood. Blood doesn't squick me out or anything, but it made the NEEDLE OUT NOW feeling really hard to ignore. Lots of and lots of deep breathing at this point, the dizziness and nausea kicked up to a worrisome level. It felt like it took forever for her to finish and get the needle out.
I guess I looked a little off at that point because I kept getting asked if I were alright, cold towels for my forehead and neck, admonishments to not close my eyes. The last one was tough to do, not because I was going to pass out but because the flourescent (if that's spelled wrong, sorry) lights were very bright as it was and my dizziness made them seem even brighter plus it helped me to concentrate on just breathing. In case you can't guess by now, this is another reason why it took closer to two hours. They had me down flat for 15 minutes, then propped me up a bit for another five and brought me juice, then up for a bit more for another five with more juice and another cold cloth. I have to say, everyone was amazing. I know that passing out, particularly under those circumstances can signal something really dangerous and bad is going on with your body, but most people do not and therefore do not take it seriously. They all took it very seriously but also worked hard to put me at ease.
Overall, I'm glad I did it and I'd do it again. Somebody could be getting my blood right now. Well, maybe not right now -- they have to do tests and stuff for hepatitis and AIDS and so forth -- but soon. So if you need blood and then you start feeling cilley, you know who to