Tuesday afternoon I took a walk around the block to the local Red Cross Blood Drive. I have been a fairly regular donor for the past 9 years--ever since that fateful day in 11th grade when the Blood Drive came to my high school. That first experience was memorable--but for all the wrong reasons. Not only did it take at least a half hour to fill the bag, but I was queasy and lightheaded and had half the workers hovering over me to make sure I was doing ok. Heck, I was even breathing into a paper bag. (Not the coolest thing to do as a high school junior, mind you.)
Despite my bad experience, I wasn't going to give up. My mom is a marathon-type donor. She is faithful and has earned who know how many gallon pins as a thank you for her sacrifices over the years. I have gone again an again (probably 2 or 3 times a year since then) and faced my fear, armed with knowledge and experience. I know exactly which vein they should use--old faithful. I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that I need to be laid back the whole time or things will go south. Preventing the problem I am.
Tuesday was the first time I've been brave enough to give blood by myself. Normally I go with my mom or in college, I took a group of friends, or in November I got my husband to come with me for the first time. So I signed myself in, got registered in a new region as a first time donor again (the third time I've been a "first time donor"), and got settled on the table.
My technician was very nice and stood by my side the whole time chatting away. It was wonderful. I was feeling good as she said, "You're almost done!" I was thrilled--I was not going to complicate things. (I have a history of getting I'm-going-to-faint symptoms with blood drives or even IVs, but I never actually faint.) Then, almost immediately, her expression changed. "Why did it stop?!" she asked. "It's so close to being finished too and the pressure just dropped. Squeeze the ball again for me."
I started squeezing, and instantly the feeling overtook me. "I'm feeling very lightheaded," I told her. She shouted, "I need a cold compress over here!" My stomach was queasy, my skin was clammy, I was breaking out in a sweat, I was having trouble breathing, my vision was blacking out, and then--the newest and scariest experience--my hearing started to go.
"I can't really hear anything," I announced, as other technicians were flooding to my side, reclining my bed even more. "The hearing's always the last to go," one lady said, as she was trying to get me to keep my eyes open and move my legs. "Don't tell her that," said another tech guy. ("Oh great," I was thinking. I still don't know exactly what she meant by that, but I don't think I need to find out.)
This whole experience filled up maybe 2 or 3 minutes time, but it felt like an eternity and I couldn't wait for it to be over. I wanted to throw up, I wanted the pain and scary symptoms to stop. My body had decided it was done allowing all of that wonderful blood to leave it's veins, and it put an end to things. Thankfully (SO thankfully), they were able to finish filling the full pint.
And just like that, I was fine. The nice technician who was kindly fanning me with his manila folder was now asking me if I could use something to drink. My color came back, I was smiling again, and I downed that cranberry juice. Pretty soon I was sitting up and walking to the table to eat a small sandwich.
My lightheaded and queasy symptoms lasted long into the evening. I felt weak and sick for the rest of the night--highly unusual for me. But I don't regret it. The Red Cross employees were wonderful, and I know I'll give blood again. I just hope I don't have to go through all that trauma.
Hopefully my story didn't scare you away, but are you a blood donor?