As many of you know (primarily because I won’t shut up about it), the Virginia Tech Alumni Association sponsored a blood drive with The Blood Center today in honor of the victims of the April 16th, 2007 campus shootings.
At about noon today, I got a frantic e-mail from Todd, the president of the VTAA-WI. He said a TV reporter from a Milwaukee station was going to be down at the Wauwatosa Blood Center at 2:30, and he wanted to make sure people were there so it didn’t look empty. I think everyone at home realizes that people were trickling in throughout the day, but I can appreciate a good visual, so I agreed to make the trip to do it. On the drive in, I prepared myself for the role of my life: “Guy getting stuck with needle in background.”
Let me state up front: I absolutely HATE needles. This is good for the times when I consider trying intravenous heroin, but bad for when I need to give blood. My Mom likes to tell a story about how it took three nurses to pry me off a door frame to get a shot when I was a kid. Plus, I once had a humiliating experience giving blood, which I will describe at the end of this post. But there’s the setup.
I got to the Blood Center just in time. They handed me the stack of paperwork I had to fill out and sequestered me in one of their little offices, lest anyone catch a peek at my answers. (People would definitely want to cheat off me, since my answers were at least 80% accurate.) For the survey, it took me a while to calculate how many prostitutes I’ve used in the last few years. I told the nurse there that I’d need to look at my credit card statements to give them an accurate answer. (That’s actually not true. Me and my prostitutes always use an Indian-style barter system, where they give me sex and I give them a raccoon hat.)*
While trying to recall how many intravenous drug using men from Cameroon I’ve had sexual contact with, my phone buzzed. “Chris, it’s Todd. The TV guys called about an hour ago and they can’t come. There was some explosion in Whitewater or something.”
At this point, I have to forge ahead, lest I look like a royal d-bag. Plus, you know, giving blood helps people, and all that stuff. The lovely Bonnie came in and pricked my finger for a little blood appetizer. I was wondering exactly how many holes I was going to walk out of there with today.
We walked together to the main room, where Todd was sitting there, already hooked up. He seemed coherent, so I figured this wasn’t going to be too bad. They sat me in the chair, and I made the obligatory jokes about how they might need a couple needles ready, in case my muscular arms kept bending them. They asked me how much I had to drink today, and I said about a fifth of Wild Turkey. (I actually really am this annoying in person, people.)
In went the needle, and I couldn’t watch. After about 30 seconds of feeling like I was going to faint, I heard the most dangerous words a blood giver can hear: “Uhhh… Donna? Can you come over here for a minute?“
This, of course, meant something was awry and she needed help. I immediately guessed that they couldn’t find a vein. My sharp mind deduced this from the fact that they were actually fishing around in my arm with the needle. I suddenly had become a pincushion with shoes. A very sad pincushion. But with very nice shoes.
After a few minutes of trying some ‘ol crafty bloodletting tricks on me (putting the blood pressure pump thingy on me, getting me to squeeze a ball, leeches) they gave up. After wiping my tears away, the blood drawing technician told me that I should have had more to drink during the day before I came in. I told her that 8:30 AM Chris appreciated her advice.
She told me I had two options: A) We could call it a day and try it some other day, or…
“I’ll take A,” I whimpered.
I walked into the waiting area, and Todd was there, smiling and drinking a water. I told him that there was no luck, since my blood ran cold with the revenge I would seek on him for making me do this. He looked at the scrolling news on the TV, and it said that there was nobody hurt at the explosion in Whitewater. So, ironically enough, if the TV reporter really wanted to see someone injured in an accident, he should have stuck with the Blood Drive story. He could see the carnage that was my left arm – it would have been a ratings blockbuster.
We chatted for a little while, and I considered telling him my dumb joke about prostitutes and filling out the forms. But I figured those kinds of jokes in a blood center were probably treated like jokes about bombs in airports. So I held off. His loss.
I wandered over to the cookies and juice staging area, and wondered what their policy is for unsuccessful blood givers. Sure, my blood was still safely in my circulatory system, but I was pretty thirsty. So I grabbed a Diet Coke and sprinted out of the place.
So, in sum, I drove three hours for a staged media event that never occurred, and my reward was that I got jabbed in my veins for no reason. It appears that I will be able to selfishly enjoy the delicious blood running through my veins all by myself. None for you, future motorcycle accident man.
On the plus side, they did say that a few people had come in or called about giving blood since the drive started. So even though I was a flop, we helped some other people down the road.
Oh, and I should explain my trepidation about giving blood in the first place:
After my freshman year at Tech, I was home for the summer. Having too much time on my hands, I decided to be a do-gooder and go to the Red Cross and give blood just because I thought I should actually do something good for mankind for a change.
A few weeks after I gave, a letter from the Red Cross showed up at my house. It said that my blood was unusable, since it was infected with something. Or, at least that’s what I think my mom said it said, when she marched into my room crying, opened letter in hand.
Thinking I had contracted some kind of horrible sexual disease, my mother demanded to know all of my sexual activities up until age 19. Fortunately at the time, my list of sexual experiences was about as long as a list of “Great Eskimo U.S. Presidents.” But having to explain to your mother that you’re a total loser is something I wouldn’t wish on the inmates at Guantanamo. Alberto Gonzalez couldn’t even justify that.
When I called the Red Cross for clarification (I thought it unlikely that I could contract anything from Cinemax), they just said that I probably had a mild cold or something when I gave. In other words, I wasn’t dying. (Although after discussing my sex life with my mother, I kind of wish I had.)
So while I realize giving blood is a safe and useful thing to do, you can understand the trauma I have felt in my adult years about the process. On the positive side, if you need to tell someone they’re dying of a killer STD, my mom is now available to do it for you.
*-SIDE NOTE: So if you’re caught publicly with a prostitute and decide to one day give blood, what do you do? Are you instantly disqualified? “Sorry Mr. Spitzer, not today.”