Technical Difficulties from on Top of the Mountain
2004-02-13
  Giving blood
Today was blood drive day. It occures about once every two months, which is slightly longer than the manditory 56 days you must wait between donations.

Now most of giving blood is pretty boring. You read the same forms as last time (except for some subtle change that they don't point out), then they take your blood pressure and stick your finger to get a red blood cell reading. Then they ask you the same 37 questions as last time (have you ever taken bovine insulin ??) which you have to answer from scratch because some bureaucrat decided that people were too dumb to read the questions themselves.

Then they have something really peculiar. They give you a sheet with two stickers (both barcode). One signals that your blood should be used, and one says, don't use it. Once you're alone (the tech leaves), you pick one sticker and put it on your sheet, and put the other on the discard square of the instruction sheet, and then you move forward.

What's this for? Peer pressure. In certain circumstances, guys at work will round up their buddies and drag them all down to the donation center to give blood. Copping out doesn't look good, and revealing some bizarre medical issue is even worse. So the red cross lets you go through the whole procedure and then will dump the bags, just to protect your privacy. All very convoluted.

Finally, you get your empty bags, and you head to the chair. I've learned to deal with someone sticking me with a needle. Its not pleasant, but I can live through it. One rule is--never look. You don't really want to know, and you definitely don't want to tense up. (I have an old experience as a kid with a tetanus shot that taught me that one.)

So they clean up the area, give you a little squeeze ball to play with, and then they stick you. It stings, but if they're good, its over in a moment and its not too annoying after that. Unfortunately, one time I brought my wife who not only watched, but offered a commentary on the process.

"Oh my gosh", she says, "That's not a needle--that's a trocar!" At which point they get into a discussion about how large red blood cells are and how they could never fit through anything as tiny as a needle. Needless to say, I could have gone without having learned any of that.

What does work extremely well is taking something to read and keep your mind off what's going on. Humor works great here, you don't want something serious. A collection of Dave Barry stories, or your favorite comics. Personally, I take along a Foxtrot anthology, and I'm always in stitches the whole time.

I think it lightens up the room too. Otherwise everyone is so somber.

 
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