Wednesday, March 28, 2007


This one's just for practice - I'm getting ready for next month.

So there I was, outside the doctor's office, ready to go back to work. No more appointments, no more prescriptions, I was on my own now and ready to face the world. At least that's what the good doctor said. I had more than a few doubts myself. I mean, the world is kind of big, and there's a lot of stuff to deal with - buying a house, raising children, church, work, family, friends, baby showers, bridal showers, weddings - there is always a lot going on.

I digress. So there I was, leaving the Cabrini Tower for what I really hope was the last time, and I remembered the sign I had seen as I drove up Madison to my appointment (which I made by one minute, thank you!). The sign said "Puget Sound Blood Center" in large, all-capital grey block letters, hung on a concrete overhang above tinted glass doors framed with standard issue black metal. My guilt twanged as I remembered at least three phone calls in the last month asking for me to donate because my blood type was in short supply.

Why not? I've given blood three times successfully - by which I mean I never actually fainted or chickened out at the last minute. It was better than waiting around at work for my mom to call from the airport. She was coming back from a long trip and I was picking her up because I work near the airport. Everything was ready - her house was cleaned up, the dishes were done, the garbage taken out, and I even put a cute Easter lily on her kitchen table, with an adorable purple polka-dotted round placemat trimmed in yellow, and a gift bag with the latest Mary Higgins Clark book. All I had to do was go sit at my desk for another two hours.

So I jaywalked across the alley and entered the glass doors. The receptionist barely glanced up as I oriented myself by following the signs to "Donor Registration" down the hall. A sweet little grey-haired lady looked me up in their database, gave me the questionnaire to fill out, and pointed me to the waiting area. I read and x-ed and signed the forms, and after about 2 minutes a cute little girl (seriously I'm getting older every day) came up to prick my finger and check my blood pressure, pulse, and respiration rate (116/80, 64, and I don't know). My blood sank in the test tube - evidently I had a high enough blood iron content to be allowed to donate.

Their chairs were more just like the dentist chairs - blue faux-leather semi-reclining chairs with arms that swing out to allow you to sit down easily. Much nicer than the portable tables used when the blood center makes its monthly rounds to my work. I made myself comfortable and chatted with the technician as she scrubbed my elbow with iodine for 30 seconds. Then she cut off my circulation and had me squeeze a star-shaped piece of foam while she tried to stick a pointy object in my poor little veins. She found a vein, although I think she wiggled the needle around just to freak me out first. It hurt a little more than usual too. Oh well. I started to watch the clock on the wall while squeezing the blue foam star every 3 seconds.

The clock said 5:01.

See? This isn't so bad. I told myself. I could pretty much just zone out and relax, squeeze, relax, squeeze, relax, squeeze.

"Wow - you're already halfway done. You're really fast today."

Those were probably the words that started it. I'm sure my sister remembers how easily I get grossed out by just mentioning needles, veins, etc. I usually psyche myself up for giving blood by just not thinking about it until it's all over. By then you're enjoying the juice and cookies and thinking it wasn't really so bad.

"Is that bad?" My first thoughts came out of my mouth.

"No, you just have a lot of good pressure in that vein, so the blood is coming out nice and fast."

"Is that normal? Usually I take about 12 minutes or something like that."

"Sometimes it slows down a bit."

At this point, my memory gets a little fuzzy. The last thing I remember is that I was conscious of getting dizzy.

"I feel faint. Really, really faint."

"Try to keep your eyes open. We'll lower your head ..."

The clock said 5:05.



whzzz, beep, cold, white, blue, clear, noise, voices

The clock said 5:08 or 5:09, I think - for a while my brain didn't have any words - I can't explain the empty feeling, like something is missing but you don't even realize it until it comes back.

"I'm awake." Four heads turned towards my face. Hands that I didn't realize were even there relaxed their grip on my arms and torso.

"Can you tell me your name?"

I gave the correct response.

"What did you have to drink today?"

A liter and a half of water at work.

"What did you have to eat today?"

I listed off the cereal for breakfast, potatos and salad (topped with grated cheese, mushrooms, kidney beans, and cottage cheese) for lunch, and cheese and crackers for an afternoon snack. Somehow I forgot to mention the slice of lemon merengue pie.

"Ooh - you're making me hungry. Do you still feel dizzy?"

I was feeling much better, although I didn't want to move anytime soon.

"Would you like something to drink?"

I accepted a glass of cranberry-apple juice they mixed up especially for me.

A gentle hand mopped the beads of sweat off my brow, and I gradually realized my neck and chest and forehead were all covered in wonderful ice packs. It felt so good.

I didn't even notice when they removed the needle from my arm and bandaged it up.

"You had a mild siezure."

What? I passed out. Fainted. I've done it lots of times - well, more than ten times and less than thirty. You get dizzy, pass out, and wake up feeling better. No one here had stuck a rope between my teeth to keep me from biting my tongue in half, or laid on top of me to keep me from jumping out of the bed/chair.

"What?" The question finally came out.

"You passed out, and had a siezure. You kicked off your shoe, and you were bending your arm. We had to hold your arm straight because, you know, if you woke up after bending it with a needle still in place it would really hurt."

Oh. Me? I started to freak out. They repeated the details in calm voices, as if this happened every day. Not to me it doesn't!

"Can someone put my shoe back on? My foot's getting cold." I-wish-I-knew-her-name picked up my shoe with a smile that didn't even looked strained, and she slipped it back over my toes and heel. How could she not be freaking out? Goodness, those ice packs felt wonderful.

For the next 25 minutes, I remained laying down. The nurse on duty kept an eye on me, and she kept coming over to check my blood pressure every 10 minutes. She told me that the next time I donated blood, I should tell them about this experience and they would lay me down with ice packs ahead of time. As if I'm ever doing this again, I thought. Gradually my bed was raised back into a chair. Finally, when my blood pressure reached 110/68, and my pulse dropped to 76, they let me try standing.

"Just stand for three minutes, and we'll see if you can go over to the refreshment area."

Sure - I was getting bored, and my book was in my jacket pocket on the shelf, out of reach. I passed the three minute test, and walked carefully over to the mini-cafeteria, where I was offered juice, hot! chocolate, water, crackers, cookies, and pretzels. Of course I had some of everything.

While I was sitting there, the lady who served the juice asked me,

"Is that a CTR ring?"

"How do you know about CTR rings?" I had to make sure - don't want to just assume she goes to the same church.

"I'm in Seattle ___ ward." Yes, I really forget which ward, I'm not just trying to change names to protect the innocent.

We chatted for a while, then she served another man when he was finished donating. She talked about her grandkids, I talked about my niece; she talked about blood donation, I said I didn't think I'd be back for a while. She was very sympathetic and didn't try any guilt trips to change my mind. When I finally left, it was an hour after I woke up.

I walked back across the alley to my car, paid the parking attendant, and drove straight to the airport, where I arrived with perfect timing; about one minute after my mom called to tell me she had her bags and she was ready, I was pulling up in front of her. I had her drive me to work to pick up my things, and then home, where we had food from Teriyaki Bowl for dinner (she has the chicken with steamed broccoli every time, I currently like the Kung Pao shrimp). And when I finally went home, my husband gave me all the hugs I could want as I finally melted down in the safety of his arms and told him about my day.


So what do you think - fact or fiction?


Nick said...

Fiction- I think its really your MOM who likes the kung pao shrimp. But the rest sounds pretty believable.

Very well written. The bar has definitely been set high for next month. Dangit.

Jenny said...

Fact. You're the only person I know with a history of bad blood donation experiences who would feel personally responsible to go donate because they're short on your blood type. You really are that good. And Mom called me yesterday to tell me how sweet you were to have the house all ready and with fun Easter decorations when she got home. She felt loved.

But I'm hoping the seizure part was fiction ...

Julie C said...

well, my family must know me really well - except I did too eat the kung pao shrimp! The whole thing was really what happened, as best as I could remember it on Wednesday. I only edited out some of the repetetive talking parts because they were boring.

As an update on how I'm doing, my arm HURTS! It's sore from my wrist to my shoulder, and some bruises finally showed up on it. But other than that I'm fine - no dizzy spells, nothing wierd. Well, no wierder than I usually am.