Written by David Vogel Tuesday, 06 February 2007 18:00I would like to say I did it because every two seconds, someone in the United States needs blood. However, the only real incentive, as far as I could see, was that there were rumors of free cookies.
Last Monday, Hillsboro High School sponsored an American Red Cross blood drive. In true irony, I, being deathly afraid of needles, signed up to donate.
When it comes to sharp needles passing through my skin, I am a big weenie. I am a firm believer that if God had intended for humans to intentionally donate their vital life fluids, he would have been sure to strategically place a small spigot on, I don't know, the upper right hip.
And then, to make everything perfectly clear, the Bible would say something like, "Then God said, "Let us make man in our image, after our likeness, with this little faucet thing hear on his upper right hip, so that he may, whenever the urge arises for a free cookie, pump out his vital life fluids."
It would be much easier that way. On blood-drive day, the Red Cross staff would set up its equipment, take your vital signs, hang a small pale off your waist and then turn the nozzle.
Here, I am picturing a process much like collecting sap from maple trees.
But as you're probably aware, humans were not equipped with little valves for giving blood. Instead, we have to take sharp objects and jab them into our arms.
This is where I run into trouble.
Perhaps you think this is a silly, childish phobia. Perhaps you think I should grow up and take it like a man. Perhaps you have never had a woodchip jammed up your foot.
It was on the playground in fifth grade when I developed my psychological fear of things penetrating my skin.
Being the brilliant little stud that I was, I thought it would be fun to crush a woodchip by stomping on it. (You have to understand that, at age 10, the male brain basically works on two modes: Food Mode and Macho Mode.)
The playground at the elementary school is covered in woodchips, and I selected a long, slender one that would fit perfectly into a sidewalk crack.
With my friends gathered around to observe my incredible strength, I inserted the woodchip into the sidewalk, and then hauled back, collecting all possible momentum, and plunged my foot down hard.
Then something truly amazing happened. Not only did the woodchip fail to splinter into a million tiny pieces, but it remained completely intact and shot through my shoe, and into the sole of my foot.
There was pain. There was blood. There was drama.
Many of those present are still my close friends now, and they have yet to let me live this down.
But despite this traumatic event, I found myself marching down the hallway to give blood at 12:15 p.m. Monday, trying to be brave. However, I'm not that great of an actor.
As I sat down into some sort of medical beach chair, I overheard the two nurses at that station discussing how they both had to go to the bathroom.
This can't be good, I thought.
My nurse walked toward me, eyeing my arm suspiciously.
"Having fun?" my voice cracked.
"A blast," she replied dryly as she snapped on her rubber gloves.
She prepped my arm by finding and marking a blood vessel, and then smeared on a brown slime. As she was selecting the needle that would soon be siphoning my blood, she mentioned to the other nurse how earlier that day she had found a needle that was completely crooked on the end.
She looked me straight in the eye and said, "I should have saved that one for you."
By this point I was squinting, but managed to pry my eyes open just in time to-this was a big mistake-see the actual size of the needle. I had been expecting something along the lines of a sewing needle.
I hate it when I'm wrong.
This baby was about the size of a harpoon, only wider. I had a hard time believing it would be going into my arm by mere human strength.
I turned away before she injected the barb into my arm. To my surprise, I didn't feel much pain. I just kept squeezing the ball as my nurse instructed, and even made conversation.
It's amazing how quickly everything can go downhill.
First, my nurse actually left to go to the bathroom. Meanwhile, I was making nervous glances down at the bag that was, in my opinion, filling a lot faster that necessary. I could picture the chilling newspaper headline, "Teen bleeds to death as nurse pees."
Fortunately, she returned before anything overflowed (har!), and I began to feel confident again. Then she took the needle out.
"This is when most people start feeling sick," I think she said. I'm really not sure, because at this point I was wondering just how rapidly the ceiling was coming down to smack me in the face.
It was an interesting sensation, feeling the need to drink water and throw up at the same time.
After several minutes of laying back with my feet straight up in the air and wet cloths on my face, I recovered. And in hindsight, I'm glad I faced my fears and gave blood.
Somewhere out there, someone in need will be receiving a pint of my blood. Whether it be a life-threatening car accident or a minor woodchip-related injury, I helped to save a life. And got a free cookie.
* * *
UFO: There has yet to be a synthetic replacement developed for blood.
Don't ask why.