I’m sitting in a vehicle called “The Bloodmobile” watching my blood fill a bag. Think “Batmobile,” and then annihilate that thought. It’s a blue RV with beds and needles used to snag your blood for kids at a local children’s hospital. (Not all of it, just some.)
I’m giving blood because I know the facts:
- One adult donation can help three people
- One in every seven people who go to the hospital need blood
- One in every one people hate having needles plunged into their body
I’ve laid out the process in seven easy steps for those of you who think you don’t have what it takes. Hint: you have exactly what it takes.
Step one: Can you donate?
You have to answer “no” to one hundred questions: Do you have any diseases? Recent tattoos? Any sex stuff with a man in 1977, in September, in Great Britain, named Richard?
No to all? All set.
Nurse: I own you now.
Step two: …But can you donate?
In the Bloodmobile, the blood man pricks my finger to check my hemoglobin count, which is the same test that they do on young Jedis to see if the force is strong with them. He says nope and instead of telling me to get out, he pokes my other finger and squeezes more blood out, globs it on a tab, feeds the tab to a machine, pushes a button, and my midi-chlorian count is off the charts. I am a jedi.
Photographer: Smile please.
Palest man alive: Are we done?
Nurse: Lol no.
Palest man alive: I don’t have blood
Nurse: Hey thanks for making me laugh back there
Palest man alive: Am I…real?
Step three: Prep the mind
I’m squeezing a foam star as they strap a rubber band around my bicep. I’m watching two other people losing blood, trying not to focus on their blood bags filling. I’m not bad with blood. I’m very cool under blood pressure. My friend Gabe had a leg-wound in high school and squirted blood all over our kitchen counter like a garden sprinkler and I basically turned into a medic and saved his life, no big deal, don’t call me a hero but you can if you want to.
But seeing a bag filled with blood really queases me out. One time a nurse had me hold the bag, because, for some reason, I asked her to let me hold it. Just a full bag of my own warm blood mixing with anticoagulant so it doesn’t glop up. A big ol’ heavy blood sack o’blood. “Thank you.”
Step four: Prep the body
The guy swabs my left arm with alcohol and checks my veins. Not to brag but I’ve got great veins. Nurses always tell me how good they are. (My body is see-through.) The blood dude pulls out the needle and I’m looking at literally anything else. I’m not afraid of needles, I just really don’t want to see them go in, or feel them, or talk about them and plus I’m afraid of them.
Step five: Insert the needle
Nurse friends tell me they practice on oranges which is great except oranges don’t sweat or scream or turn white and pass out by looking at you. Or bleed all over you.
You: What about blood oranges, HUH?!
Me: SHUT! UP!
So the bloodman grabs a needle and tosses it in my arm like he’s throwing a dart. And it feels like he wasn’t great at darts.
Step six: Let it flow
Once they poke your vein, the clear tube fills with blood and you watch yourself leaving yourself. Except this time, no blood. “I’ve got no blood! I’ve got no BLOOOOOD! CODE RED! GIVE ME A FULL ONE!”
Him: Did you drink any water today?
Me, guzzling water: No.
Him: That might be the problem.
That might be the problem. Or the problem might be that you missed my vein! My blueprinted vein! I don’t know if I’ve made this clear: I am clear.
He pulls the needle and blood jumps out of the giant hole in my arm, and he says to my arm, “Oh now you’re gonna bleed.”
And my arm says, “Yes!”
Step seven: Insert the needle again!
He taps my right arm this time, Old Faithful, and blood rushes to the tube.
He slides a heating pad under my right arm to help the flow of blood, and I get the halfway mark, and my body says enough! Read. My. Lips: No. More. Blood. Then the Mariano Rivera of phlebotomy comes over and she says, “I don’t know why this is under your arm”, and takes the heating pad away, and then she says, “I don’t know why he put it in that vein” (which aren’t great things to hear), and then she shifts the needle (which isn’t a great thing to feel). Think strumming your ligaments like a guitar.
This woman is remarkable though. She puts her hand on my arm and says, “Does this hurt?” And I say, “Only a little,” and we give my blood together.
Lady: I’m taking two pints instead of one—one for me, one for the kids!
Guy: Lol okay wooooweeewooooweeeee
After a full bag, they unplugged me and fed me Cheez-Its and sent me on my way. I would soon discover that drinking a PBR immediately after giving blood isn’t a good idea, and neither is throwing a softball. And I’d do it all again in a heartbeat. And by “all” I mean not the PBR or softball, but the giving blood. And by “heartbeat” I mean at least fifty-six days, because in fifty-six days our bodies completely recover from losing a pint of blood. Amazing. You’re amazing. You can do it. Lay off the PBR though. Have a Guinness. (More iron.)
Lady: Want to try a cup of your own blood?
Man: Is it safe to drink?
All small images: http://www.redcrossblood.org/donating-blood/donation-process
Bart Tocci (’11) lives in Boston where he writes essays, performs at open mics, and threatens to start taco restaurants. He’s been told that he looks like the kind of guy who stands up for what’s right. And who goes to the store before the party. Read more here: barttocci.wordpress.com