It probably says more about my character than I’d like to admit that I didn’t become a blood donor until I started working at an organisation that encouraged staff to donate during work time.* You see, even though I’d met some very enthusiastic donors along the way, there was something about the idea of a) giving away a part of myself – literally, and b) volunteering to be stuck with a largish needle that made me hold back on doing this good deed. But it turned out that being paid to not attend another boring meeting was all the motivation I needed. (Well, that and the promise of a free milkshake afterwards.)
I’ve been making regular (you can donate whole blood quarterly) donations for four years now, so obv. the process is not as harrowing as I’d feared, but there is still one bit that makes me think ‘this is the last time I put myself through this’ every time, and that is when they put the needle in. It’s not that the needle itself is particularly painful; the problem is that I have what the blood bank nurses call ‘small veins’,** which apparently require a great deal of skill and accuracy to tap into. This means that every time I visit the blood bank, I have a conversation that goes something like yesterday’s:
Nurse 1: Which arm will we be using today, love?***
Aimee: The right arm, thanks. The left one’s no good at all.
Nurse 1: [looking at vein in right elbow-area] Hmmm…it’s a wee one, isn’t it? Perhaps— [moves towards left arm]
Aimee: No! Really, that’s the good arm. The left one’s impossible to even find. This one doesn’t look like much, but it always gets there in the end.
Nurse 1: [doubtfully] I’ll have to get Nurse 2.
Nurse 2: Ooh, that is tiny, isn’t it, darl? [cranks up pressure on arm-cuff thingo] And you say you’ve used this vein before? You’re sure it wasn’t the other one?
Aimee: Oh no, the other one’s bung. There’s always just a lot of digging around in there with the needle and then they give up and use the right one. [trying to muster encouraging cheerfulness] It always gets there in the end.
Nurse 2: [taps more at vein] Well, I’ll do my best, sweetie.
Aimee: [thinks: This is the last time I do this.]
Nurse 2: There we go.
Aimee: [thinks: Ow.]
Nurse 1: You got it then?
Nurse 2: Yes, it’s flowing nicely.
Aimee: [triumphantly] It always gets there in the end.
Even though Nurse 2 seemed to have no trouble at all, I was still thinking I might make this my last donation because perhaps we small-veined folk are not the best candidates for this sort of thing after all. Until Nurse 2 announced to Nurse 1 that my little vein was pumping out blood at a rate of knots. The bag was filling faster than she’d seen one do in months! Even big, athletic men with big, athletic veins couldn’t do better! Nurse 1 looked suitably impressed.
Less than seven minutes later it was all over. I was thanked profusely for taking the time to donate, complimented once again on my small-but-mighty vein and sent to the recovery area for a chocolate milkshake. I – positively bursting with pride – made a mental note of the date I’ll be eligible to donate again.
* In defense of my otherwise not-too-reprehensible character, I feel compelled to mention here that I have also done my share of volunteering and helping the elderly cross the road and other good deeds.
** which is surprising because the rest of me is at the larger end of average (except for my slightly-too-small feet, which I blame for much of my clumsiness)
*** ‘love’ is one of many endearments used by the blood bank nurses. I suspect it’s largely because they can’t remember everyone’s name, but it does give me a dose of the warm fuzzies to be called ‘love’, ‘dear’, sweetie’ and ‘darl’ all within the space of a forty-minute visit.