Warning to the squeamish, specifically certain members of my family (you know who you are): The following story contains references to bodily fluids. If, while reading, you begin to feel dizzy or the room suddenly seems very warm, push your chair away from the computer, bend forward and put your head between your knees, and breathe.
I am not a fan of Halloween, especially since the kids all grew up and I no longer have the opportunity to cadge chocolate from their trick-or-treat bags. Still, it seems appropriate to acknowledge this gore-ridden holiday in some fashion. So let’s talk about blood.
My family has a tradition of responsible community involvement. We vote, we volunteer, we write letters to the editor, we help out our neighbors. One thing most of us don’t do is give blood. This is due to another long-standing family tradition—fainting.
It seems only fair to my father, a long-time blood donor, to point out that this tradition has come down to the female members of the family from our mother. My father learned about this family trait not long after their marriage. He was doing some leatherwork, gashed his hand, and quite naturally went to his bride for help. She took one look at the blood and passed out on the floor. He had to revive her and get her into bed, presumably being careful not to drip blood on the bedspread. Then he got to go bandage his own hand.
My sisters and I have inherited this tendency. There’s just something about the sight of blood that makes the room get warm and everything get fuzzy. We aren’t wimps. We aren’t uncaring. We aren’t nurses, either. It’s a good thing that none of us were accident-prone as children. It’s an even better thing that none of our children were. Maybe that’s an inherited tendency, too—an adaptation meant to help survive childhood in the absence of maternal wound-tending.
In spite of all this, years ago I decided to be a good citizen by donating blood. The first time, they managed to get half a pint, one slow drop at a time, before giving up on me. The second time, having made the mistake of going to the donation center right before lunch, I fainted. My husband told me later, "Wow—I never saw anyone actually turn green before." I was told gently but firmly that my services as a blood donor were no longer required.
This year, I decided it was time to try again, in a different town where the blood bank had no idea of my history. The first time, I was nervous, so my partner went with me to provide moral support and to be there to drive me home just in case. All went well. Which had its downside; now I felt obligated to donate again.
The second time, with misplaced confidence in my own fortitude, I went by myself. The donation process was fine. I felt fine. Everything was fine. Then they sent me off to sit in the waiting area for the required 15 minutes. I started feeling dizzy, got very warm, and woke up on the cold floor with several concerned faces floating above me. After a few minutes two staff members helped me across the room to a recliner. Do you have any idea how embarrassing it is as a mature adult to have someone hold you up by the belt loop in the back of your jeans? I had to sit with my feet up until my blood pressure came back up to a reasonable level, and I had to call someone to come take me home.
Before I left, I was told that my services were no longer required. "It’s just not worth the trouble," the supervisor told me. Whether she meant not worth it for them or for me, I’m not sure. Though it probably isn’t the greatest advertising for the blood center to have passed-out donors lying around in the reception area.
Donating blood is a great thing to do. I highly recommend it—for other people. As for me, I think I’ll carry out my civic responsibilities by writing letters to the editor.