I realized this morning that I’ve been giving blood for almost twelve years.
Back in the day, when I was a wee bookstore monkey, there was a blood drive at the mall, right down the hall from the bookstore.
“How old are you?” asked one of the women I worked with as I shuffled in to start my shift. I should have known by the smile that she wanted something I wasn’t going to like, but I answered honestly anyway. (Not like she couldn’t have found out by a) looking it up or b) asking one of my friends, who was also working that day.)
“Uh. Eighteen, why?”
“Good!” she said, with far too much cheer. “You can give blood!”
Now, I’d seen the signs up for the past week. I knew there was a blood drive that day. My initial reaction was, to sum up, oh my god they stick a huge fucking needle in your arm and vacuum the blood out of your veins and oh my god NO. “I’m on in ten minutes,” said I, weaselling.
“I’ll cover for you ’til you get back.”
“I, uh. Maybe next time.”
I headed for the back room, to take off my coat, punch in, and hide.
She followed me. “But you might save a life! What if some little kid gets in a car accident and it’s your blood that saves him?”
“Jesus, Barbara, that’s… that’s kind of morbid.”
“Well, yeah, but it’s true! And they’ll give you a cookie! C’mon, don’t be a chicken.”
I wasn’t being all Marty McFly, but she had a point. People give blood all the time. The Red Cross knows what they’re doing.
Every now and then, on rare occasions, I grow a little bit of backbone and try to do something that scares the hell out of me. Sometimes the inner pep-talk of “other people do it all the time” works.* Combine that with the idea of actually maybe helping someone, and my weak-ass excuses seemed less and less valid. So, I manned up (womanned up?) and moseyed down the hall.
Turned out, it wasn’t so bad. They found my vein on the first try. I looked away and didn’t watch them sticking the Big Fucking Needle into my arm. It didn’t hurt. The sight of blood didn’t freak me out. When it was done, I even got a cookie – Barbara wasn’t being a smartass about that.
I went to a few more blood drives between that one and starting work here, but not anything on a regular schedule. Here, however, we work with Mass General’s bloodmobile, so it’s a lot more accessible. The first time they came around, when I was in customer service, my supervisor talked me into signing up. I finally figured out where the arsenal of little squeezy balls she had had come from. She and some of the other people in our row had occasional wars with them, the air filled with soft, multi-colored projectiles. Try keeping a straight face on the phone when your supervisor is pelting the guy behind you with them, and all he has to defend himself with are the rubber bands in his drawer.
That was almost eight years ago. While I haven’t been able to donate every time they’ve come around (we went on a cruise in 2003, and because it stopped in Belize, I couldn’t donate for a year), I’ve done it as often as I could.
It’s a small thing, but it really does feel good to do. It wipes me the hell out – I get home from work and just want to nap all night after donating – but I don’t mind. The MGH team consists of some great nurses, and I always manage to go downstairs at about the same time as my former supervisor, so I’m giving in good company.
I’m not one for tooting my own horn, and I’m not sure I’d really even call this post bragging, but I realized that on the naughty-or-nice list, this falls into the “good things I’ve done” category, and I’m proud of it.
*Sometimes it doesn’t. Two years later, telling myself “there are seven year olds in front of me and they’re doing it” didn’t work with the Tower of Terror. I got out of line at the last minute (after the intro walk-through, just before you actually get on the ride) and waited for my friends from a safe vantage point on the ground. I’m neither claustrophobic nor afraid of heights, but as a general rule, I don’t like elevators.** If it is at all reasonable to take the stairs instead, I will. Why people want to get in a mock-up of one that simulates repeatedly plummeting to one’s doom is beyond me.
**I blame a spate of earthquake disaster movies on network TV in my early years. One too many “we’re going to take the elevator even though the ground is shaking ohmygodwe’refalliiiiiing” scenes.