I was bleeding, and nobody tried to stop it.
Crimson life trickled slowly through my veins. I squeezed my hand cautiously, and the ebb increased, flowing like a red river over my arm, only to decrease when I eased the pressure.
My heart rate accelerated, conducting the down-beat, and a second later my pulse answered.
Thud. Ebb. Pulse.
Thud. Ebb. Pulse.
Constantly. The rhythmic melody of my life’s blood leaving my body.
I closed my eyes. And then it stopped.
“You did good, sweetie,” chirped a voice.
I opened my eyes and questioned, “That’s it?”
“Yep,” the nurse answered, her brown eyes crinkling at the corners, “you’ve finished donating. And we didn’t let you die of blood loss.”
I laughed because she was still controlling the needle. She force-fed me an apple juice that I didn’t particularly want, and then that was it.
I had donated blood for the first time.
It’s something that’s been on my bucket list for awhile. Donating blood seems like donating a small part of your life, which is priceless, and really only costs you 10 minutes.
And slight trauma.
Not that I’m scared of needles, mind you. I just hate pain. Needles = pain. Not a good equation.
Therefore, I recruited my brother, who hates the sight of both needles and blood, and made him donate with me, which for some sick reason made me feel much better about the whole experience.
We walked into our church auditorium, which usually echoes with the sound of teens singing or goofing on the grand piano, and found it unnaturally hushed. Teens lay half-reclined on green stretchers, heads turned away from arms, pointedly ignoring the fact that they were bleeding. On purpose.
Veterans at this procedure joked with the nurses, asked if they could chew gum, laughed harder when told they couldn’t. “I knew that!”
My brother and I signed forms, attesting that we really wanted to do this (we didn’t). We walked to a prepping station, where we were greeted by two jovial nurses. They bantered back and forth as they rubbed strong-smelling smells on our fingers and stuck thermometers in our mouths.
“You must be nervous, honey,” laughed my brother’s nurse, as she took his pulse.
“Actually, no…” he tried to reply.
And then she slashed his finger.
My nurse crowed with laughter, as she did the same to mine. “That’s why we put the thermometers in before we do that. Then you can’t yell.”
We laughed politely. One should always laugh at the jokes of needle-wielding nurses.
The nurse led us over to a small cubicle where we were told to answer a couple questions via computer.
It was not a couple questions.
About the time they asked whether I had been given blood in the U.K. at any time, I figured out that the answer to any and all of these questions was “Absolutely not. No. Never.”
That decision was only solidified when they asked about blood transferals in France. Canada. Other places. (Didn’t I already say no?)
Finally, after trying to put down “No” for the question “Are you male or female?”, the torture was over.
My brother and I sat on the green stretchers and tried to relax. A perky nurse came over and asked, “Who wants to be first?”, with a nice little upward lilt to her voice. The lilt said, “Isn’t this fun?”
My voice, when I volunteered my brother to go first, answered, “Oh, you bet.”
After slight grimacing, his needle was in, and it was my turn.
We won’t discuss this part much. Let it suffice to say that apparently my veins are “small and wiggly and move around a lot.”
Once it was in, I was given a pink ball. When I looked at it blankly (did they really expect me to play with this now?), the nurse hid a smile (not very well) and said, “Squeeze that every ten seconds, hon.” I thought this was to relax me.
It wasn’t. It was so I could squeeze out my own blood faster.
While I sat there squeezing out my own blood in a sadistic race against time, my brother’s friends, who had just finished giving blood, gathered around him. “Hey, man, how you feeling? Not gonna pass out are ya?” They shared a nervous laugh, as the nurse said in mock disapproval, “We don’t say those words around here.”
They remained standing around awkwardly, staring at Jerm, and it was then I realized something:
Men need cheerleaders when they give blood.
This is not a dis – it’s the cold, hard truth.
Men will not watch the needle being inserted. They don’t watch the nurse coming towards them with the needle. They don’t even look at the nurse.
Half the men turned pale half-way through, if they weren’t to begin with. They lay in helpless agony, heads in the crook of their other arm, and panted like a woman giving birth.
It was stinkin’ hilarious.
At the very end, when we survivors gathered around to share stories, gaze at blue-taped wounds, and slurp soup, we realized the absolute best part…
No, it wasn’t that we might potentially save a life.
We got one of these.
Totally worth it.