Friday, October 2, 2009

They're thoughtful that way.

This post is going to be honest, blunt and bloody.

This is what happens when you give blood with the Canadian Blood Services.

When you walk in, there's a smell. A really yucky, ugly smell that's gonna remind you of hospitals and clinics and dead people (but there's no dead people there, promise).

The building is a circle, or at least the one I go to is. You start right beside the cake and the cookies and the juice (I'm sure they do that on purpose, not just because it also makes layout sense), and you can't have any, you can't even look at it too much because in a second, you're going to be called over to a desk with a man behind it, a really nice, friendly man who's been taught to not scare you. Well, try to not scare you.

He's going to take a tiny little plastic thing and ask for your finger and you, not realizing what this tiny plastic thing is, are going to hold out your hand and feel a prick. He'll have already told you that he needs to do this to make sure you are plush full of iron. It's a pinprick. You may not even feel it. Imagine someone pinching your arm: this hurts less.

There'll be a little well of blood on the tip of your finger, but they'll try to cover it with their glove.

He's gonna take a drop and tell you if your iron is high enough. This is important. If it's not high enough, then it could be dangerous for your health to give blood so they're not gonna let you. But let's pretend that your iron level is fine.

Next comes paperwork. Mostly, it's about sex. Sex-sex not gender-sex but they don't want to know your most intimate details, just if you might have AIDS. All of the paperwork is online (just google them) so you can look at it in advance too.

Next, you'll go in this private room and someone will go ask you more questions (mostly about sex again) that you'll say no to, although there'll be a couple of yes's just to make sure you're paying attention. I promise they're not judging, they just want to be safe.

They're going to give you two stickers with barcodes on them and then leave the room. If you want to donate your blood, you take the appropriate barcode and stick it on your file. If you want to check for AIDS or other blood-related diseases, or just find out your blood type without donating, you choose the other barcode.

When the person comes back, all they'll see is a barcode, so again, there'll be no judgements.

Next comes the obvious part. The giving of blood part, the sharing of survival part, the big ass needle in your arm part. Breathe. Seriously. It's okay.

Now, you might think (wrongly) that since your arm needs to be bare (and if it's the middle of summer), it would be a good idea to wear a halter top. It is not. The bed/lounge chair/thing you are going to lie on is plastic.

Don't wear a halter top. You'll stick. My bad.

So you lie down, the nurse finds a nice vein while making small talk, and they'll set everything up.

I apparently have very small, invisible veins. I'm practically albino, so you'd think they'd be easy to see, but they're so ridiculously small that my nurse took quite a while to choose a vein because she wanted to be absolutely certain that there would only be one more prick to come. For me, that involved strapping up one arm, deciding that she wanted to try the other arm, finding that the other arm wasn't any better, and then going back to the first arm. You might think that's silly and time-consuming. I think I'd rather they check several times than leave me with a collapsed vein. So yeah, they're thoughtful that way.

They'll tell you when. My nurse told me that if I was going to look away, now would be the time. I did look away, since it was my first time, but it's not that bad.

Believe me, I'm a sissy.

The needle isn't that big. The prick doesn't take that long. The pain is not that bad.

Seriously. I'm a whiner, if it really hurt I would tell you and then be bitter about it the rest of my life. It's more like a sting than anything and it only takes a second and then you can't feel it anymore.

Blood. Right.

Typically, donations take five to ten minutes. A while ago my friend asked me how long and I said it depends on your blood pressure. It does depend on your blood pressure but said friend turned really pale and didn't want to go with me anymore, so I'm going to stick with five to ten minutes.

If you hand gets cold, which mine does, they'll give you a glove tied up that's filled with hot water to hold, and if you have lower blood pressure, which I do, they'll ask you to squeeze and unsqueeze it over and over again.

There are nurses everywhere and they are bent on making sure you are perfectly fine.

There was another woman there who, after donating and sitting there for a few minutes, was feeling dizzy. Immediately, there were three nurses surrounding her with ice and cold pads. Within another few minutes, she was fine.

I think my albino-ness caused them to be overly concerned, because thirty seconds couldn't go by without a different nurse coming up to me, taking a quick glance at my file (and reading that it was my first time) and asking me if I felt okay.

I felt just fine.

Okay, that's a lie.

I was sticking to the seat: that did not feel fine. My arm felt pretty normal though.

I watched the blood. Right as it starts, you can watch it run through the tube and you get to see how fast it's going. That's cool. Afterwards, it's just a brown tube.

(I got kinda sick of all the people asking me how I felt so I started texting random questions to my sister just so they'd stop asking me.)

Once you're done, they'll take the needle out (another sting, just for a second) and press a piece of gauze where it went in and ask you to hold it there. Five minutes later, they'll come around check to make sure it's done bleeding, and then tape a fresh piece of gauze on.

(Unless you're so friggin' albino that they want you to sit for another few minutes so they go get you a drink and make you sip it there. I tried telling them that I'm naturally this ghostly but she didn't buy it.)

And then that's it! You get cookies and cake (if you're lucky and it's someone birthday) and juice and volunteers make small talk as you sit. There are people all around you--at all times--making sure that you are okay. They make you stay for a few minutes afterwards because if you faint, they are going to catch you. They're there for you. You are going to be fine.

You should know that from the moment I entered the building to the moment I left, I never once saw blood. First it was covered by the person's glove and then a band-aid, then in a tube, then under gauze, but I never saw myself bleeding.

On Greys Anatomy, there was a guy played by Seth Green who had an exposed carotid artery that burst. Lexie practically bathed in blood until she managed to stop the bleeding.

I know that that didn't really happen, but it could, it does, and you could help.

It's in you to give.