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Blood, Sweat, and Tears


Patti Dinneen 

I got an e-mail announcing that the bloodmobile was once again coming to my workplace. Since I had fond memories of the last time I donated, (which included lots of joking around, cute blood guys, and free snacks) I signed up immediately. Not to mention the fact that the last time we had a blood drive I was the proud winner of a "Got Blood?" T-shirt, which I immediately shrank to size 18-24 months the first time I put it in the dryer. I gave it to my niece for Christmas.

Anyway, I signed up and was ready to give blood. I originally began donating because my blood type is known as the "Universal Donor" which means my blood can be used in anyone, provided of course they are down a pint. Since folks far and
wide are clamoring for my blood, who am I to deny them?

First stop was the requisite hundred-year-old knitting woman who took up residence in the building lobby. Her job was to check off names on the list of donors and provide nametags. She insisted that the donors write their own names on the tags, because, quite frankly, writing names on tags is not in her job description and she's got knitting to do. After giving out the nametags she then offered up an informative fact sheet that contained the interrogation questions that would be asked on the bus. The questions go something like this:

1. Are you, or do you know of, a person who possesses blood?
2. Have you ever, even once, looked at the world's smallest pony at a state fair?
3. Do you have, or have you ever been in the presence of someone who has, Mad Man on Crutch Disease?
4. Have you, even once, since 1973, bled?
5. Have you ever sung "Feelings" at Karaoke night in an oriental restaurant?
6. Have you ever watched Woman in Chains or any other film about incarceration in the last leap year?
7. Have you, even once, traveled out of the United States while calling in sick to work?
8. Have you, in the last 12 months, visited the Fay Wray Islands?
9. Have you, even once, been in the company of Jo-Jo the Dog-Faced Boy?
10. Do you like sharp things jabbed in your arm?

After being briefed on the questions I was given permission to board the bus. Upon entering the bus I noticed the presence of Bob, my great pal and co-worker. Bob and I immediately began joking about the pre-blood-donating questions. We were
discussing the incredible cinematography of Woman in Chains when one of the Red Cross ladies severely reprimanded us about not taking donating blood seriously. I tried to explain to her that, although I appeared insensitive, I truly did recognize the magnitude of the plight of Jo-Jo the Dog-Faced Boy. She snapped her glove at me and began playing with a very large needle, while her face held a sinister smile. 

Suddenly, the door to the cubicle that housed the Red Cross Examiner flew open. 



"Bob, it says here that you have never, even once, sung "Feelings" on Karaoke night in an oriental restaurant. However, you were seen on May 24 at Big Chung Giant Blue Panda Garden Dragon Mandarin Lotus Palace House II, indeed singing

"That wasn't me."

"Oh yes, Bob, we have it on good authority that you were there."

"You've got it wrong."

"No, I believe we've got it right, and we can't have the likes of you tainting our blood supply."

"I'm telling you, it wasn't me!"

"Okay, Bob, why don't you tell me exactly why I should believe it wasn't you?"

"Because I always sing Barry Manilow's version of the great Frank Sinatra hit "Copacabana."

"Exit the bus, sir."

Bob was escorted to the exit door and tossed off the bus by one of the blood guys. I felt his pain, as I too had once been denied the right to donate, and forced to take the "Walk of Shame." Sure people say things like "Happens to everyone once" or "Something's wrong with the equipment," but that doesn't help the feelings of inadequacy. When I was denied donating rights, I clearly remember walking slowly off the bus, through the lobby, past the hundred-year-old woman, who looked up at me and gave me a twinkly smile that said "I wonder what kind of filthy lifestyle she's led?"

The woman who evicted Bob from the bus escorted me into a super secret room where she asked me things I wouldn't want my mother to know. After she asked the questions she took my blood pressure, which was fine at 120/72. She took my
temperature, okey dokey at 98.6, and then decided I should have my ears pierced - or at least one of them. Before I could protest she went at my ear with a pushpin. After making a hole you could park a Buick in, she proceeded to squeeze my lobe, filling up a small vial with ear blood. She then took the blood and sent droplets of it into a test tube filled with blue liquid. 

"What the..." she said as she watched my blood hover around the top of the tube. She turned to me and said "Anything you want to tell me?"

"Umm... you look pretty today?

"Thank you, but I'm referring to whether you'd like share with me why your blood isn't sinking?"

"Ahh, because I'm Irish? The Irish are know for their buoyant blood."

"They are also known to indulge in a bit of the drink. We're going to have to spin you down."

With that she grabbed my ear and again squeezed at it, attempting to obtain enough ear blood to fill a second tube. I asked her if she wouldn't like making another hole because I was fairly certain that my incredible clotting capability was working against her. She told me it wasn't necessary and went at my ear with a pair of needle-nose pliers and a ball-peen hammer. She finally managed to extract enough blood to perform a second test. This test involved some sort of "spinning" of my blood in order to definitively prove I was not an amphibian. My blood was deemed "warm" and I was given permission to donate. I took a seat outside the interrogation room and patiently waited for my name to be called.

"Next!" I ran toward the open seat on the bus ready to perform my donating duty. I settled into the comfortable reclining seat as the Red Cross nurse began prepping me. By "prepping" I mean tying a tight rubber band around my upper arm and slapping the inside of my elbow. She made a comment about my "deep veins" and handed me a rubber ball to squeeze while she continued to slap me. After that she scrubbed on some yellow stuff that looked bad and smelled worse. I think it was Betadine.

She began swabbing the Betadine on the tip of my index finger and didn't stop until she reached the top of my skull. She then, and I swear this is true, began poking at the inside of my elbow with a toothpick. "Just trying to find a vein," she said to me.

"Perhaps you should try hitting it with a small marsupial?" I responded.

Finally, everything was just right and she brought out the needle. She told me to hold still and went in for the kill.

"Urghhhhhhhhhohhhhowwwwwwwwww" I cried out as she inserted the needle into my arm and a burning sensation occurred from my elbow to the tips of my fingers.

"I'm sorry honey," the Red Cross woman said, "your vein rolled and I hit the highly sensitive "Make Your Arm Feel Like It's Burning Off" nerve. You're okay, the needle is in now and you're bleeding like a champ!" 

"That's great, but what about the Towering Inferno going on inside my arm?"

"Oh that will subside and your arm will begin to ache slightly. Similar to as if a pack of wolves had been tearing at it all night."

"I love animals," I said, as I slowly began to drift out of consciousness.

The nurse shook me awake.

"You're done!"

"Mommy? Is that you? I was walking toward the light when..."

"No, honey, it's me, the blood lady. I've finished taking your blood; now I just need you to hold your arm straight up over your head for three hours. I'll check back in June."

While I held my arm over my head feeling every last drop of blood drain from my arm into my torso, a cute non-English-speaking blood guy came over and said "Mishca novivica troslovica mallomars?" Which I think loosely translated
means either, "You look like hell, can I get you a snack cake?" or "How about later you and me trip the light fantastic, my little marshmallow?" I think it was the latter. So I gave him my number and fled the bus. 

While I vowed never to return to the bloodmobile, I know that in another three months or so they will be back... and so will I. In my heart I know it's the right thing to do. While I may have had a single uncomfortable experience, I have had many very good experiences. And perhaps even more important than my nagging sense of moral obligation, I know that along with the Bloodmobile come the blood guys, and hey, where else is a girl gonna find a date?

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