Sorry, no whimsy today. Oh, and please stop reading if you hate needles.
My heart feels down today. Nine years ago today, when I had my daughter, there were, as they say, complications. She was born 6 wks early by emergency C-section; I had Preeclampsia. I mention this to explain why I got a transfusion that day. I was so grateful someone had donated the blood that helped me recover. For nine years I told myself I would donate blood someday in honor of that gift generously, anonymously given to me.
It seemed serendipitous that my employer had a blood drive today, my daughter’s birthday. It’s a sign – it means this is the year, I thought. I looked forward to it all morning. I went there just before lunchtime. I’d been drinking plenty of fluids. I brought my ID and reading materials.
Things were going along well. The finger prick showed my iron levels were great. Questionnaire was fine, blood pressure fine, pulse fine. I told the nurse my reason for doing my first donation. I was eager to start.
Nurse 1 seemed a wee bit concerned about small veins (I am 4’ 11”) – but not too concerned. She inserted the needle and I dutifully squeezed and released every 5 sec. She was silent. Then, she brought over another nurse to consult.
“I need your magic fingers,” she said to Nurse 2.
I could hear vague mentions of things not flowing. They repositioned me and had me move my feet like windshield wipers while I kept squeezing at 5 sec intervals. Nurse 2 started to prod and twist the needle a bit. That’s when I got reaaaaally clammy. I was sweating so badly I actually fogged up my glasses.
I tried not to think about the fact a colleague from another dept I don’t know so well was in the next bed. A veteran donor, he was getting quite the show. Ice packs were put under my neck; cold cloths on my forehead. They said we were about halfway done. Then Nurse 1 started getting proddy with the needle and I tried muttering something about please not touching it but couldn’t really get it out.
Eventually they called it quits. They said the vein was working against them, trying too hard to clot. I didn’t even notice at first the tears sliding down the sides of my face until they were watering my shoulders.
“Will you be able to use the amount I gave?” I asked softly. Nurse 1 didn’t meet my eye when she said they can’t give it to another person, too many coagulants in it or something. But they could use it in the lab for research or something. She took a Sharpie and made big X’s on the stickers on my bag and explained that I won’t receive a donor card now, but please, come back and try again. This happens, you were brave, and so on. They had no tissues but she found paper towels for me to rub my eyes with.
Sure, not my fault, blahblahblah. But instead of getting to feel proud, feel like I’d honored my daughter and balanced the karma, I get to feel like I wasted their time, bummed us out and probably set myself up to be moody for tonight’s bday dinner. It also brought about memories of feeling like a failure when I couldn’t deliver my baby the “right” way and then couldn’t make enough milk for her and we had to supplement with formula. Yes, shit happens / I’m not a failure / I tried my best at these things. But disappointment is bitter, gets you searching for a culprit. When the only suspect is you, that’s where your blame goes. Then, you get frustrated with yourself for the negative thinking. And it adds up to one hell of an unproductive afternoon.
The worst part besides seeing the big X’s on my bag o’ useless liquid happened in the parking lot. A sweet-looking older woman was staring at the big ol’ cotton square and tape on my arm, and gave me a huge “way to go!” smile. An “I donate too!” type of smile. And I felt like a fraud, a speck, a taker.