My original thought, as I was lying there giving blood, was to title this “Profiles in Courage,” because I was, after all, giving blood, which is a big deal, because I do not like giving blood. There is nothing fun about giving blood. Except the delicious post-blood snacks. There is very little fun about giving blood.
But I did it, which was very courageous of me, admit it. But I’m not here to talk about how courageous I was, though true. Instead, this is a bit of a complaint.
Let me back up. I’ve been giving blood for a long time. Not like those people who give every 56 days, like they’ve got something to prove, honestly. But I have been a donor fairly regularly through my life, off and on, if I could, when convenient… sometimes. I am a strong advocate for giving blood even when I have not actually given blood.
In fact, when I owned The Stanstead Journal, the newspaper was the sponsoring organization for our local clinic. This meant I was allowed to drive around in the town ambulance and announce the clinic over the loudspeaker. I made my announcements in English and in French, but bungled the pronunciation of the French word for “blood,” so for a while there, I was broadcasting to the streets of Stanstead, in French, “There is a breast clinic at Sunnyside School today…”
Yes, those were heady, highly inappropriate days.
But people change. I used to not like olives, now I like olives. I used to wear briefs, then I went to boxers, back to briefs and then boxers again. It’s been an underwear whirlwind, really. But more to the point – the point in this case being a thick, sharp needle jabbing into the vulnerable fleshy part of my elbow pit – I started to suffer anxiety when giving blood.
To be clear, I never passed out. There were times when I started walking down the long subway tunnel of unconsciousness past the homeless man of dizziness, but I never jumped on the fainting train.
Still, it felt terrible enough to keep me for several years from willingly letting strangers siphon precious life fluids from me in a school gymnasium with questionable hygiene.
I’ve learned to overcome my anxiety and do, on occasion, give blood because, like voting, recycling and not leaving the top of the toothpaste all globby, it’s the right thing to do.
And when I say “overcome,” I mean work really hard at not freaking out. This time, I was not freaking out when I was having my iron tested. I was not freaking out as I wondered why they ask questions like, “Have you ever had sexual drug-relations with tattooed West Nile mosquitos?” but never practical questions like, “Will we need to catch you?”
I was not freaking out when I started feeling I should have eaten more. I was not freaking out when I read that I should have drunk at least 500 ml water and realized I had drunk nothing but coffee that day, which is the anti-water. I was not freaking out about the prospect of freaking out. I was not freaking out when my wife looked at me and said, “You don’t have to do this, you know.” “I’m fine,” I said, like a tough guy, and drank another glass of water.
In the end, I did not go queasily into that good night, not even as they pricked and pumped my arm and my fingers began to tingle and the light in the room went slightly pixelated. I hung in there. I distracted myself by chatting with the nurse, in French, hopefully nothing about breasts.
So, no, It wasn’t fun, but I gave my blood. I’m a hero. Profiles In Courage!
Which brings me to my complaint. The blood clinic: no pins. I thought I got a pin. How am I supposed to feel smug and self-righteous — I mean, a hero — if I don’t get a pin?
I hope my puncture wound bruises up real good.
P.S. Happy ending. This was in my newspaper box today with a note. “Thank you, Ross, for your donation. From the Organizing Committee.”