7: Blood Drive

7: Blood Drive

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Campus Chronicles

Blood Drive

Panic at the thought of doing a thing is a challenge to do it.

~Henry S. Haskins

All right, so I am basically a chicken. The idea of having a hypodermic needle jammed into my arm makes me shudder and the thought of having my blood siphoned away causes a pale, sweaty mask to form on my face. As a member of my university’s student service organization, I have enthusiastically recruited others to donate their blood to the American Red Cross, and smiled thankfully when they signed their pints away.

As for giving my own blood, that was always another matter. Every year, the excuses I gave to avoid it became wilder with each blood drive. Mononucleosis worked a couple of times, hepatitis, medication, etc.... The best one I came up with was “rolling veins.” While I did a grand job of fooling everyone else, I felt uneasy lying to myself. I knew that eventually I would have to go through with it.

This year’s blood drive marked a turning point and I decided that it would be better to die on the donor’s cot than to go on living with the guilt harbored in my chicken veins. Besides, my friend Ruth promised to give blood at the same time and I figured I could always hold her hand if I really got scared.

The appointed day came when the big semi truck arrived on campus. At my eight o’clock class, Ruth informed me that she had a funeral to go to later that day and couldn’t make it. I would have to face this one alone. As my appointed time approached, I hobbled to the parking lot. I walked inside the trailer and surveyed the blood-mobile setup. There was plenty of juice to drink, but I would have preferred a shot of something stronger.

I took a seat in a row of chairs against the wall while I waited for a nurse to call my name. When she did, I got up and walked over to where another nurse methodically asked me preliminary questions from a sheet. This was it; there was no backing out.

“Have you ever had grphnxlty?”

“No.”

“Xaklytany or krvanp?”

“No.”

“Are you or have you been pregnant in the last six months?”

“Ummm....”

“Please step this way.”

Another nurse pricked my finger to see if my blood met the minimum daily requirements. As she popped a thermometer into my mouth, I garbled, “Will this hurt?”

“No. Just relax. Good, your blood is red and your temperature is normal. Please step over there.” She pointed to a place where another nurse was standing next to an elevated cot.

“Hi there,” she said. “Would you please lie down?”

“Sure, lady.”

“You seem a little edgy. Have you ever given blood before?”

“No, I’m a first-timer.” I thought about Ruth, who bailed on me. I asked hopefully, “Will you hold my hand?”

I climbed up on the cot and saw Smith lying on an adjacent one, already bleeding into a bag. From his looks, I thought about walking out. But it was too late.

“Hold onto this and squeeze your fist slowly,” the nurse ordered.

Attempting to defuse the situation with some humor, I looked at her and said, “Hey, if you strike oil in my veins, I’ll split the profits with you!”

“Very funny, young man. That’s the first time I’ve heard that one — today!”

“Oh, sorry.”

The whole experience was over as smoothly as it began. After the nurse put a bandage on my arm, I left the donors’ table for the one with cookies and juice. There was a whole group of people like me who had just finished donating blood. They were all milling around, munching and joking with cookie-filled mouths. One fellow was commenting about the nervous types who put on a show and try to act brave when they step into the bloodmobile. I laughed along nervously.

Walking out of the trailer, I felt like a real hero. After all, I did give a whole pint of my very own precious blood. And I had a bandaged arm to prove it. The fact that millions of people donate their blood every year didn’t matter at that moment. All I cared about was my personal glory, regardless of how short-lived it might be.

~David Hyman

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