Wednesday, May 11, 2011

The needle and the damage done.

I gave blood at work today. Not in the metaphorical sense—literally.

Ever donated blood?

From my perspective, it's one of those things that must be so compellingly convenient and spontaneous that I have to either brush the side of a blood mobile or stumble a few steps out of my cubicle to a waiting porto-bed. No appointments, no bus rides, no effort.

Today was one of those "site sucks," or whatever they're called, where gurneys are assembled in your workplace conference room, surrounded by more rubber gloves, cookies and tomato juice than my grandma's kitchen on hair dyin' day.

The elderly volunteer sat at a makeshift reception desk, tapping a little too hard on a laptop and taking a little too long, bless her heart. I sat patiently before her, waiting for her to conjure the proper information onto the computer screen. "Well, congratulations," the kindly woman said, "today will be your forty-third pint."

Since my brain operates on the smart ass standard, I was tempted to reply, "Yes, but you have no idea where this blood has been," or "That might sound like a lot of blood, but that would barely cover the walls of your average Manson victim's living room."

I refrained.

Donating one's life liquid turns out to be a bit of a mind game, as first one must fill out a lengthy questionnaire, vowing that one has never had sex with a cow or come into contact with a gay man's brain matter.

Hang on. Reverse that.

After filling in the requisite circles, I handed my sheet to a white-coated technician who escorted me to the "on-deck circle," a small booth where more latex gloves, thermometers and blood pressure cuffs lie in wait. My blood was tested for sufficient iron content and I was again queried as to being absolutely positive that I haven't had sex, even once, with a man since 1977.

We're talking about one time over thirty-four years. That's a long time, so I needed clarification about the definitions of "man" and "sex." Not to worry, however.

Now it was time to saddle up and strap on (Sorry, still kind of thinking about that man sex thing.).

I always request that they tap the same vein on my right arm. That thing's been poked with a needle more often than Keith Richards on royalty check day. After the requisite preparations, the cute young tech initiated a healthy mainline into the Ziploc bag beneath my cot. I had counted approximately fifty-seven ceiling tiles, when I noticed her approaching bloodside.

"Oh, it looks like the needle turned a little. I'll just fix it."

I'll try to describe the subsequent sensation, but it's a little murky. Just imagine the feeling of a large needle digging around in a circular motion inside your elbow crook. It was sharp, white and scalding.

"I'm gonna need you to stop doing that." I was desperately willing myself not to meow in pain.

"Sorry. Do you want me to take out the needle?"

"Umm, no. Just stop moving it around inside my arm. It hurts...a lot."

"Okay, it looks like it's working now."

Sweet Jehovah. My vision shrunk to a narrow tunnel as beads of frozen sweat peppered my temples. After three more pain-free minutes, all necessary blood had been transferred out of my person.

The technician again shuffled up to my right. "Geez, it looks like the needle turned again," she offered while peeling back several strips of tape.

"Really?" I asked. "So I guess you really didn't need to turn it in the first place?"

"Ha, I guess not!" She was laughing.

Here's what I didn't say at that point: "Yeah, well, maybe you should go back to practicing on pumpkins or Life Size Barbie, Now With Real Veins! by Mattel."

"Would you like a wrap or a Band-Aid?" As I contemplated the less conspicuous Band-Aid option, visions of spraying artery gravy crowded my thoughts.

"Better make it a wrap," I replied.

Opting not to linger in the afterglow at the "canteen" upon dismounting the gurney, I grabbed two chocolate chip cookies and a can of V8 from the snack and hydration volunteer, turned and headed for the door.

"Thanks for donating," chirped the nice, yet incompetent, laptop checker-inner lady to the back of my head.

"My pleasure."

Did I really just say that?

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