It was almost like a party atmosphere at the American Red Cross blood drive at Hillsboro Mennonite Brethren Church last week. Music was playing, people were talking and laughing, and lots of good-looking cookies and treats were set out on several round tables by the kitchen. I did not expect a blood drive to look like so much fun; I also did not expect to get roped into giving blood myself.
I am not good with medical things. If I get a sore throat bad enough to merit a doctor visit, they have to tie my hands down to do a throat culture. I do not like needles either. As a mother of four children, I learned to do bandages and peroxide sufficiently, but I always cried for or along with my babies when they had to get shots as youngsters. I know it hurt me more than them.
So why would I even venture close to a blood drive? I went to find a story, and certainly did not plan to give blood, but once I got there I was so impressed with the people I met. I was inspired to step out of my comfort zone, and believe it or not, I gave blood.
When Teresa Fraley, the American Red Cross recruitment representative, greeted me at the front table, I knew I was in trouble. Even after I explained to her that I was there to report on the event for the newspaper, she had the audacity to ask me if I was going to give blood.
Then I met Aldina Franz and Shirley Kasper. I was so impressed to learn that they gave blood every chance they got. Combined, they have given 226 pints of blood through the years. To them giving blood was no big deal, didn’t take much time, certainly didn’t hurt any, and it was a good thing to do.
Maybe it was meeting Burt Nichols, who gave a double pint that afternoon — a process by which his red blood cells were removed and then his plasma returned, that pushed me over the edge into blood donordom. It took him twice as long as the regular donor, but that didn’t seem to faze him.
When I asked why he did that, he said, “Well, I got plenty of blood. More than I’ll ever need. Why not?”
Still, I mumbled a few lame excuses about not liking needles and having a tight schedule for the day when they asked if I was going to give blood.
It wasn’t until I was out in the parking lot and almost home free, that I saw Kay Klassen exiting the building. Now I know she is a busy woman but she found time in her day to give blood. I went back in.
Nurse Janet Herrell told me they accepted four types of blood — O+, O-, B-, and A-. I thought maybe I would be off the hook because I didn’t know what type of blood I had, but no such luck. They wanted it anyway.
After a brief interview, I found myself on a comfortable lounge gurney, squeezing a squishy ball and watching another nurse poke around my inside elbow for a nice vein. I had to look away.
The initial prick didn’t hurt much, but the fact that I had not prepared to give blood worked against me.
Usually people who plan to give blood drink a lot of water 24 hours ahead of their appointment. They are also supposed to eat a hearty meal with protein.
Well, I skipped breakfast except for a cup of coffee, and ate a tossed salad for lunch. I think I had a glass of water two days before … how does that happen? Still, I was thus far committed to giving blood so I stayed with it.
Because my body wasn’t very hydrated, my blood dripped slowly. I was glad to find out that I had some, but I didn’t much like it when the extraction needle had to be reinserted and repositioned. But I survived. And I have to say, I did better than one young man on a gurney somewhere behind me did.
The people in white coats assured me that the young man was fine, but still my blood dripped slowly … at a level three instead of eight. Eventually a better needle position made my blood flow faster, and then just like that I was done.
I felt a bit lightheaded, but not enough to admit it to my escort. I enjoyed a brownie, orange juice, and water at the “recovery” table where many other donors also sat. It felt good to be part of humanity doing something positive for others. Though my experience was not perfect, I might do it again. I like to think that my blood might help a trauma patient, someone needing surgery, or an individual fighting cancer. I’m proud of myself, and thankful I got to meet such nice people as Teresa, Aldina, Shirley, Burt, Kay, and many others who were at the blood drive last week. They inspired me to give blood, and I did it, and survived.