A Guide to Giving Blood (Before Proceeding to Pass Out)

They vant to suck your blawhd!

For a good cause, of course.

Red Cross was on campus this week to collect the blood of unwilling victims students, faculty, and anyone unfortunate enough to be in the area. A pint of blood is all they ask for (unless you’re a super human, then they’ll ask for double the blood – or even your precious plasma). A pint can save three lives, they propagandize. Well, you got nothing better to do – I know I don’t – so let’s donate some hematocytes!

Let’s play a game called “Spot the Error(s)”:

Here is how I prepared to donate:

  1. Ate lots of iron-rich foods, especially eggs. I love me some egg sandwiches in the morning.
  2. Drank at least a cup more of water each day.
  3. Went to sleep between midnight and 4 a.m.

On the day of the appointment:

  1. Woke up (9:30 am). Drank a tall glass of water.
  2. Had a bowl of cereal (10:00 am).
  3. Went to class (12:00 pm).
  4. Waited around, drank water (2:00 pm)
  5. Appointment check-in (2:15 pm)

Yeah, you know where this is going.

Now, if you’ve ever given blood, you know that it never runs on time. So while I checked in at 2:15 for a 2:30 appointment, I was not seen in for the preliminary questioning and testing for at least half an hour. Blood pressure test, prick your finger for a hemoglobin test (blood iron content), answer a few dozen questions concerning your health and the safety of your blood, etc. This process took another 20 or so minutes. By the time I was seated, strapped, and stabbed in the arm with the needle, it was perhaps 3:30 or 3:45. (So keep in mind to block off a good couple hours in your schedule if you plan on donating blood).

The bloody ritual went smoothly, taking about 10-15 minutes. I read while occasionally glancing over at the solid stream of red running from my arm into the pint-sized bag below. A fascinating experience thinking about all of this organic matter from my body being transported via a clear plastic tube into a baggy. An out-of-body experience.

Wham, bam, thank you, ma’am. The doctor dude clamped off the tube when the bag was full and proceeded to extract a little more blood into five separate vials. I’m pretty sure they use those samples to test my blood and ensure it’s clean and usable.

It was not until he started filling the fifth vial that I felt the shift in my head.

My skull around the temples began to throb slowly, adding and relieving pressure like a bellows device. A drowsiness descended from the top of my head like a veil, slowly sliding its way down behind my face. I remember furrowing my brow, concentrating on this series of sensations. I do no remember losing consciousness.

As if there hadn’t been a break in consciousness, the next memory I have is of several voices saying my name in unison. It felt like a dream. I can’t remember how long I had had my eyes open. I can’t remember how long I had been staring at the semi-circle of faces, thinking it was only a dream. How comical my waking reaction must have been once I realized I was awake and that the semi-circle was in fact real. I was lying prostrate now. Someone had placed a cold, wet paper towel on my forehead and on my neck. Even when I woke up, I hadn’t realized what had happened. (Yes, I was very slow to piece it all together). My head felt foggy, as if I had been woken up in the middle of a dream – and really, I had – even though I likely wasn’t unconsciousness for more than a minute.

As I was still lying down, an attendant bandaged my arm and instructed me to drink lots of water and refrain from any strenuous activity. She pushed my seat back up at an angle and advised me to stay for a couple minutes before getting up. I still wasn’t completely sure what had happened. Really, it felt like there had been no break of consciousness at all. After I waited and decided that I felt fine, I slowly rose to a ninety degree angle and equally slowly shifted my legs over the edge of the seat. I waited for a minute and as I didn’t feel light-headed, I got down and grabbed my things. A volunteer came over and escorted me over to the recovery station.

“Did I pass out?” I asked lightly.

“Yes.” Her reply was nonchalant, matter-of-fact actually. I chuckled a little and probably looked slightly perplexed.

Keebler snacks, Quaker bars, juices, and several other sugary snacks were available. I took one of each, quickly devouring the mini chocolate Keebler cookies. However, it wasn’t all over yet! As I was working on a nut bar, the throbbing feeling came back. A tiny pang of nausea nudged at the pit of my stomach and I became worried that I might fall out of my chair or vomit. The feeling was slightly different this time. It was incredible. Imagine a large syringe sucking the life right out of you. It begins at the top of your head again and slowly drains you down, down, down. In a cartoon, you’d clearly see illustrated the liquid of your life force being emptied from your body, leaving an empty space in your head as your strength and life evacuated your skull. Gray splotches emerged on the surface of my vision spreading outward until all I could see – was nothing.

It was the most curious feeling. As I was still conscious and not quite as nauseous as I had feared, I oddly didn’t panic. I simply sat there with my eyes open, blind, sitting very very still so that I would not fall.

“[My name]? How are you feeling?”

“I’m… a little light-headed,” I said quietly. Or at least, I think I said this out loud. The way the woman reacted, by the sound of her voice, it didn’t seem like she heard me. So perhaps I didn’t actually say it.

They urged me to move to another seat they had wheeled for me. She told me to turn and sit down. As I couldn’t see, I didn’t move and only made a feeble attempt to turn to the left. It was in fact on my right. I felt two hands gently lift my under my armpits. As I rose, the blackness turned back to gray and the splotches gradually dissolved. Phew, I had my sight back. They wheeled me behind a little screened off area, where they applied new paper towels to my forehead and neck and gave me an apple juice. I lay there for about 15 minutes, I think, almost dozing off (remember how little I slept the previous night/morning). Finally, as I was feeling better and feeling pressured since my shift at work started at 5:00 and it was currently about 4:30-ish, I got back up, feeling much much better. I went back to the recovery station, had another juice and snack and then was on my semi-merry way.

So here’s the lesson:

  • Actually follow the advice the Red Cross gives you
  • Get a good night’s rest the day before you donate
  • Eat a hearty breakfast – not just a wimpy bowl of cereal
  • Drink a ton of water
  • If your appointment is more than a couple hours after you ate breakfast, eat something else
  • Drink a ton of water
  • Don’t think you’re invincible

There you have it. All in all, it wasn’t scary so much as it was an intriguing experience. I had never lost consciousness so suddenly and I will admit that I believe in “mind over matter” – that strength of mind can overcome weakness of body. While this may be true on some scale, it is certainly not true on a larger scale, such as having a pint of blood taken out of me. Goodness, I wonder what it feels like to have a double-red donation. Must have to eat a fat steak and chug a gallon of water before donating.

Don’t let this deter you from donating. It’s really not that bad. The pin prick from the hemoglobin test is more painful than the insertion of the needle, and it’s hardly any sort of sensation at all. Save three lives with just a pint of your tasty tasty blood!

Red Cross Blood Donation


Got any interesting blood donation stories? Ever lost consciousness (blood-related or not)? Feel free to share your tale in the comments!

It’s Friday, Let’s Freewrite

The clock in the bottom right corner of my screen just changed from 12:43 AM to 12:44 AM, the result of a few lines of code marking arbitrary time. As I sit here wondering why I am still awake and why I haven’t attempted to shut down my computer, I look around at the random paraphernalia of my life: books, shelves, plants, clothes, guitar, cords, bags, clock… There’s that time again, except that clock is set four minutes faster than my watch (which actually reads the same time as the clock in he bottom right corner of my screen – down to the second).

The little autosave message at the bottom right corner of  my textbox informs me that a draft of this post was saved at 12:48:20 am. And it just saved again at 12:49:20 am. What does it mean.

If I sit quietly enough, I can hear the faint ticking of my watch. I sometimes hear it at night when I rest my hand under my head to sleep. It’s either soothing or disturbing or it’s not even there, depending on the day, depending on how tired I am. Recently, the insomnia’s been at it again, poking and prodding and nudging, too tired to go to sleep, too conscious to stay awake. What am I writing.

This is stupid. Time… Time for sleep.

Knitting Circles: What the Hell?

I’m sitting at a Starbucks on an average day in the Pacific Northwest, waiting for my next class to start. The ominous monocloud has returned, looming over the plaza. I’m wigging out and it has nothing to do with the weather. This is normal meteorological phenomena. It’ll probably be cloudless and sunny tomorrow.

The real reason why I’m wigging out is because of them.

There’s a knitting club seated in the comfy chairs across from and around me. They’re knitting (indeed) and chattering and laughing and just being loud. To be honest, they’re not that much louder than the surrounding din of Starbuckers, but something about these women are inordinately grinding my gears.

What is it?

I’m still trying to figure it out.

On one level, they remind me of the suburban housewife-y lifestyle that I am trying to dodge for my future. The idea of spending the rest of my life flitting from mundane activity to mundane activity terrifies me. That’s not a joke. Living in the suburbs attending to a breadwinning hubby and 2.06 children, while going to mommy clubs ain’t this gal’s idea of a happily ever after. (Not that this girl believes in “happily ever afters,” but excuse my jadedness.) Back to the knitters – they were irritating the hell out of me. Can’t a girl read in peace at a busy metropolitan Starbucks? I mean, really.

However! Yes, there is a “however” to this tale.

The true reason why this little social gathering was bothering me so much – this took me a while to see – was because they were just that: social. Flabbergasted, my conscious mind huffed and puffed up her chest. What? What does that mean?

Subconscious: It means you’re a social retard.

Conscious: Hey, that ain’t very PC to say. And all right, I may be relatively introverted, but I can hold my own in social situations.

Subconscious: But when was the last time you voluntarily attended one of these so-called “social situations”? Sitting around in the student government office eavesdropping on people doesn’t count.

Conscious: *sputters* Well, I never… There was that one time with the people at the place… with the stuff…

Subconscious: Admit it. You’re socially retarded.

Conscious: I am not. I’m fine just the way I am.

Subconscious: I didn’t say you weren’t fine. You’re just socially inept. You’re uncomfortable with socializing and pretend to be above all that small-talk-chitter-chatter. It’s a defense mechanism. Stop being in denial.

Conscious: I am not in denial!

Subconscious: …

Conscious: That’s not fair.

Subconscious: Admit it. And then write a blog post about it.

Conscious: Screw you.

Subconscious: And stop pretending that guy sitting off to the side in the green and grey argyle isn’t cute.

Conscious: Goddammit, you’re right. I- Hey! Stop it!

The main point is that I’ve come to realize the reason why I disdain many social gatherings is because I feel left out. It’s not even that people around me don’t like me (for the most part). A lot of the time, it’s just me sabotaging myself, making excuses about why I can’t or shouldn’t participate. The irritation I feel when I witness events like knitting circles is not superiority – it’s inferiority. The pride in being lonely and supposedly self-sufficient is nothing more than a defense mechanism. Instead of fixing my loneliness by reaching out and being social, I’ve developed a way of shrinking back into myself and shunning everyone else. It’s like being the fox in the Aesop’s fable of the sour grapes. I can’t reach the grapes, so they must be sour and bad anyway.

But what’s so sour about them? The knitting circle is a group of women, who come together to chat and unite in something they all enjoy doing. What’s so wrong with that? Nothing. It’s perfectly fine. It should be refreshing to see hints of communal interaction in our society of individualism and solitude. Isn’t it funny how we’ve been virtually trained to laugh at super nerd herds [see: Big Bang Theory] and appraise the self-serving, self-made man [see: any top dog CEO]? Community is community – barring hate groups (I’m lookin’ at you Westboro Baptist Church) – and we need to encourage people to band together, not disparage it. This is something I’m slowly, but surely working on.

We need to stop yucking their yums and get over ourselves:

What yums do you yuck? What yums of yours do other people yuck? Are you more of a social butterfly or a reclusive hermit crab? I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences!