Monday, March 11, 2013

My Arm Bleeds for You

As far back as I can remember, my mother has been a blood donor. She would go to donate and come home telling us about the cookies and juice she got as a “treat” in a not-so thinly vieled attempted to get us to want to donate when we were older. However, I am a poor stick and nurses who routinely draw blood on people have had to stick me two or three times, digging (with the needle!) around in my arm to try and get me to bleed . . . why would I volunteer for that?
In spite of my logical reasoning, my mother keep dropping hints (aka guilt) that I should donate, reminding me of relatives who needed blood transfusions. “Your blood would go to people like that,” she hinted. “Think about how blood donors saved their lives.”

(German  mother, Italian father = mega doses of guilt in our house.)
Thankfully (or not) I have spent the past few years either pregnant or nursing (you can donate while nursing; I chose not too). Our church has frequent blood drives but I never thought of signing up (big! Needles! In my veins!) until recently.

My uncle was diagnosed with cancer this fall and I have been feeling helpless. My parents have been good about keeping me updated on how he is doing. I’m glad to know how he is but I wanted to do something and they live too far away to drop off a meal or pop in for a visit.
Then it dawned on me: during Lent, I could donate blood in his honor, offering up any pain and suffering from nurses digging around for my pathetic veins. I mean, if he can go through chemo and have multiple shots, blood work and big! Needles! In! his! Veins!, I could suck it up and donate.  I know the blood wouldn’t go directly to him, but it would go to someone who needed it, maybe someone with cancer. My mom and my husband thought it sounded like a great Lenten thing to do and I promised myself I would look for a place to donate.

Yes, half of me hoped that there wouldn’t be a convenient place to donate and I would get a “get out of blood donation guilt free” card. BUT as soon as I stepped out of Mass the Sunday before Lent began, there it was- a big sign announcing a blood donation drive in a week. Adam looked at me. I looked at him . . . and signed up.
Monday rolled around and Adam came home early so I could go alone. After cracking a few jokes about how my only “alone time” was to go donate blood, I set off.  

I was pleasantly surprised to find that I had nothing to be worried about. The sign in people were pleasant and answered all my questions. The nurse promised she wouldn’t dig around for my veins and wouldn’t stick me unless she was sure she could get a good one. The intake portion of the appointment took longer than the actual blood donation part . . . but, honestly, it was kinda relaxing to just lay there and chat. I was the last donor of the day, so the employees were playing music and cleaning up. I joked with them, chatted about bags and purses and talked about the donation process. (“How many Twilight jokes do you get?” “None.” “Really?” “Yep!”) When the nurse told me the precautions I need to take for the next few days, she added, “No heavy lifting or vacuuming for 8-10 . . . months.” Hehehe. Score!

The only problem I had was (big shock!) bleeding. I was a slow bleeder (as usual) and the machine shuts off after a certain number of minutes, whether you have donated the volume they need or not. The nurse told me that next time, I need to really push the fluids 24-36 hours before I donate.
Next time? Yes, there will be a next time. I have to wait 8-10 weeks to donate again but when the blood drive comes to our parish, I will sign up. I had no side effects from donating (you can be a bit dizzy afterwards but I wasn’t) and the nurse was very apt at getting a vein. I got to sit down, chat with people, pray and eat an Oreo guilt free. It was a surprising pleasant experience, one that I encourage everyone to try at least once.

“Hey kids! If you donate blood, you get Oreos! What? You don’t want to donate? Eh, then no Oreos! Think of your relatives who needed blood to survive! Don’t you, a strong healthy person, want to help them?”

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