#11 – Give Blood

phobia \ fo-be-a\ n: an anxiety disorder characterized by extreme and irrational fear of simple things.

I don’t like needles.

Yes, yes.  I understand that “nobody really does, Steve.”  Right, well…good for those people.  In order for you to fully grasp the magnitude of my previous statement I’m going to have to give you a bit of a background on my health, especially back when I was a kid.

Throughout most of my childhood I spent what some would call a stupid amount of time in and out of doctor’s offices and hospitals.  Now, I never had anything that was a long-standing thing for the most part, but between allergy shots, Scarlet Fever, a couple of bouts of bronchitis and some pneumonia, I had a lot of shots as a kid.  And, like most kids, I railed against them as much as I could.

However, the breaking point for me came the summer before third grade (like I said, I was young).  Thanks to a series of unfortunate factors lining up in just about the right order, I came down with something called Stevens-Johnson Syndrome.  Here’s the warning: if you don’t know what it is, don’t do a search on it if you’ve got a queasy stomach.  I spent a little over two weeks split between two hospitals as a resident of either their ICU or their burn ward.  See, the bitch about SJS is that it pretty much gives you a chemical burn.  Everywhere.  There were second-degree burns that covered just over 45% of my body, both internally and externally.  Yum.  Maybe I’ll write a bit more about this experience another time, but for now let’s just content ourselves with the fact that this was the thing that pretty much snapped my brain when it came to needles.

I have taken swings at doctors, dislocated the fingers of people willing to hold my hand, required four nurses to retrains me and, in one particular instance, was pretty much sat upon by a bruiser of a nurse named Mike.  He was a good guy.

It isn’t the pain. Hell, three times a week I study a martial art that leaves me with sprains, cuts, bruises and all matter of other bodily injury.  It’s never been about the pain but, like the definition says…”irrational.”

Donating blood was put on The List for the simple fact that it scares the hell out of me at such a base level that I feel an intense pressure in my chest even thinking about it.  My father and my girlfriend both make donations regularly and I know that it does a lot of good, but there’s something about having a needle in my arm that…just…ugh.

Either way, it was time to get what is one of the scariest things on my list crossed off.  I didn’t want to be 3/4 of the way into the project and have this one glaring up at me.  So, on December 28, I made my way to the local hotel that was hosting the American Red Cross for a Blood Drive.

Ok, that isn’t quite accurate.

I didn’t just pack up and head over.  I stalled.  Vehemently.  It got to the point that the folks I share an office with, and then upon returning home, Chelsea, started giving me shit for it.  I didn’t want to do this, simple as that.  What the hell was I thinking putting this on the list?  Welp, time to go.

It was cold. I was grumpy.

Let me just get this out there now:  I respect the work that the Red Cross does.  However, the people they had running this circus were not the confidence inspiring paragons of pain-free virtue that I was hoping for.  The dude at the front desk was a disheveled wreck of a human that looked like he got plucked out of the local drunk tank and slapped into a Red Cross shirt.  Awesome.  The cookie and juice girl?  The one person in this entire overly melodramatic saga that I was looking forward to getting to know on an intimate snack based level?  Some punk ass high schooler who couldn’t bothered to pluck the ear-buds from her head when serving sweet sweet sustenance.

I fill out a few pieces of information and now begins the waiting.  I’m sorry that there aren’t more pictures of this wonderful time in my life, but the nutbars in white coats were getting a bit jumpy about me having a camera.

This isn’t a when I want to sit around and wait with time to think.  So, of course, what do I get to know now?  Sit.  Wait.  Think.

Gee, this place smells funny.
I don’t want to be here.
The juice selection could have merit.
Hmm, Chelsea seems to have taken my keys.  Clever girl.
Maybe they won’t need me and I can just go home.
Oh, what’s that?  My turn?  Fantastic.

Those of you who give blood regularly know that there are something like 40+ questions that need to be answered before they let you have the privilege of being jabbed in the arm.  If you’ll allow me, dear reader, I’m going to hop up onto a soapbox for a minute.

One of the questions is: “Have you had sexual relations of any kind with another man between now and 1977?”  To make it real simple:  if you’re gay, you can’t give blood.  I’m not, but that’s not the issue.  I have friends who are and have lost family to AIDS.  The stigma that a gay man is unable to donate blood simply because of who he is kind of disgusts me.  They sure as shit ran tests on my blood after their demons harvested it, they could do the same for a gay guy that wants to help save a strangers life.  Suck it up, Red Cross.


To fast forward a bit, there I am, sitting on the table while Not-A-Doctor Chatty McLabcoat attempts to make jokes about vampires, “getting his blood snack”, asks about “glittering like a Cullen” and generally making me want to cause him some kind of issue involving blunt force trauma.  The clichéd jokes?  Fine, I get it.  You do your thing and I’ll bleed.  It’s what we’re both here to do.  But really?  A Twilight reference?! (I’m about to curse.  Avert your eyes, Mom.) Fuck you, guy.

The procedure, I’m guessing, goes pretty much by the books.  After a gallon of iodine gets rubbed into my arm, I lay down (oh hey, I’m staring right into an overhead light…sweet) and Chatty McL asks me to squeeze “my new best friend” and then titters to himself over his obviously over-encumbered sense of humor.  To clarify, the “new best friend” is a dowel, a simple piece of wood that I’m supposed to pump my hand against.  Ok, now I’m being told not to squeeze it so hard and oh hey is this your first time and why are you sweating so much you don’t look happy to be here are you gritting your teeth and growling aww I’m your friend just here to get my snack have you seen True Blood I like Blade better because there’s more of a depth in the OH MY GOD SHUT THE HELL UP, YOU FREAKY LITTLE PRICK!

…which is about when I actually felt the prick.  Of the needle.  Shut it.

I didn’t cry.  I didn’t scream.  I didn’t fly into some kind of Hulk-induced rage.  I laid there and that was pretty much that.  Turns out I’m a slow bleeder though.  That’s right, folks, I’m just harder to kill.

Chelsea wandered over to me at this point knowing that if she was within range at anytime before this point it would be unfortunate.  You always end up hurting the ones you love and all that.  I can’t remember much of what she said, but I’ll assume they were words of comfort.  More probably, knowing her, she was telling me to suck it up.  Either way, I was pretty focused on the task at hand.  Hey, if I’m going to do something I’m going to do it well; that and I had to focus on keeping my heart rate from going through the roof.  The last thing I needed was some candy striper reject trying to carry my ass to the juice and cookie bar.

The rest is pretty much a nonevent.  I ate a few cookies, sipped a fine vintage of cranberry juice and hauled myself out of the Pit of Despair™.

Such a good patient.

Am I happy that I did it?  Yes.
Will I ever do it again?  Not a chance.

9 Responses to “#11 – Give Blood”

  1. Mom January 4, 2011 at 4:28 pm #

    So this definitely goes on the been there-done it-won’t do it again list. I’m very proud of you that you did this, and I know that Grandma is too. :-)

  2. Linda January 4, 2011 at 6:06 pm #

    Wow….it goes to show that stuff that happens when you were a kid does carry over sometimes in really bad ways….I changed my mind about why you were puking afterwards…STRESS…yes in caps….STRESS…good for you for going through with it….

    • SZimmermann January 4, 2011 at 7:29 pm #

      While the stress could have been a factor, the stomach bug very simply had my number. Unfortunately, it called while I was in a very nice restaurant, but hey…whatcha going to do?

  3. Max January 4, 2011 at 6:40 pm #

    Way to go, Steve! And props for your rules and regs rant.

  4. Dan C January 4, 2011 at 9:30 pm #

    Congrats! You look so happy in the photo :D

  5. Grandma May January 5, 2011 at 11:34 am #

    So proud of you, Steve. You can tell people “been there, done that.” Just shows, you can do anything you put your mind to.

    • SZimmermann January 5, 2011 at 1:08 pm #

      Thanks, Grandma! Glad that you’re enjoying it! Love you.

  6. Plut January 17, 2011 at 4:55 pm #

    They gave you a dowel to squeeze? They always give me a rubber/foam ball to squeeze. A ball I try to steal every time, but have never managed to sneak it out. They might have my picture on a wall or something.

    Great job on giving blood. I won’t receive your blood, but I will thank you for it anyway.

    I’m a slow bleeder too, it takes forever for me to give blood and even longer to give double red. Anyway, ONE DOWN!

  7. sid January 21, 2011 at 6:09 pm #

    Yeah the questions they ask you are rude fo sho’. I don’t like the procedural stuff you had to go through, I don’t like the feeling of the needle in me, and I don’t like that they always give me grief because I am borderline not allowed to give (high blood pressure).

    I give blood for the fig newtons at the end, and I am incredibly upset if they don’t have strawberry.

    Still I am very pleased you did it. Also the nurses always told me if you drink a lot of water before donating it tends to speed up how quickly your blood goes, not that you wanna do it again, but just so you know.

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