The last time I stepped onto a blood donation bus, I thought I was going to have a panic attack. My heart was pounding. I started hyperventilating. My palms were sweating. I just couldn’t go through with it. I gave the lady my forms, told her I had changed my mind and left. I felt so shaky it took me a couple minutes of sitting in my car to calm down. Donating blood freaks me out, and it’s not because of the needles.
Why I’m Afraid Of Donating Blood (And It’s Not Because Of The Needles!)
I used to give blood all the time, and it never bothered me. Needle pricks? No big deal. Blood? I’m cool as a cucumber. No, it was one horrible experience that did me in.
A while back, there was a community blood drive going on down the street from me, so I decided to stop by. I filled out the usual paperwork (Are you pregnant? Have you ever had an organ transplant? Have you ever had sex with a male who has had sex with another male?), got my finger pricked and had my blood pressure and temperature checked. After getting my stamp of approval, I was ushered onto one of the five buses parked outside.
I tried to get comfortable on one of the lounge seats but I swear they keep the temperature in those buses below 65 degrees, and it’s impossible to be remotely comfortable while trying not to shiver. The phlebotomist came over, gave me a squishy ball to squeeze and popped a blood pressure cuff onto my arm in place of the usual plastic tourniquet.
Two minutes and one small prick later, my blood was oozing into a plastic bag attached to a nearby machine that tilted the bag back and fourth like a teeter-totter. The phlebotomist lady left, instructing me to continue squeezing my ball every 10 seconds.
Everything seemed to be going fine until I started feeling…well, weird. I felt uncomfortable. I could feel my heart beating really hard. My arm felt kind of funny. My stomach was tied in a million knots. Something was wrong. I glanced around the my half of the bus but didn’t seen anyone who I could flag down to come check on me. I sat there watching my blood flow into the bag. It felt like it was taking forever to fill. Slosh…slosh…slosh…oh come on already!
Finally, the phlebotomist lady reappeared and declared my bag was full. But at this point, I was barely keeping my shit together. I felt horrid…like I wanted to puke and scream all at the same time.
Then she released the blood pressure cuff. It was one of those “Oh, shit” kinds of moments.
The minute that thing deflated, I felt all the blood in my body rushing into my arm. I started seeing spots.
“Are you OK,” the lady asked.
A squeaky, “No,” was all I could manage.
I was instantly swarmed by blood donation workers.
You’re white as a sheet,” someone said as the needle was pulled out of my arm and my bag of blood was whisked away. Then my vision started to go black. My body didn’t want to move. My head felt all fuzzy.
Sorry about this honey,” another lady said right before an icy cold, soaking wet towel was thrown onto my head. It felt like she had dumped a gallon of water on me, and in an already freezing bus, that was not my idea of fun. But apparently the drenched towel tactic worked because my vision started coming back.
Someone handed me a bottle of apple juice. I took a sip. Another “Oh, shit” moment. My stomach revolted.
“I think I’m going to throw up…”
A bag materialized and not a moment too soon because I immediately proceeded to hurl my lunch into it. Once that ended, I suddenly felt almost normal again, aside from being freezing, soaked and very shaken up.
I slowly finished my juice while the flock of workers hovered asking me how I felt every three seconds. To be honest, I kind of wanted to punch them in the face for asking me that stupid question over and over. I had almost fainted, puked my guts out in front a whole bunch of strangers and my perfect makeup was running down my face from the gallon of ice water they had dumped on my head. Oh, and I was shivering from the cold. I wanted to scream at them to shut up and leave me alone so I could have a good cry. But I somehow managed to survive another 10 minutes before they let me leave.
I did have that good cry when I got home, but the rest of my day was out of whack because I felt so weak and shaky. For all that crap I endured, I seriously hoped my blood was going to someone who was dying.
It was a good long while before I even considered trying to give blood again, but I still can’t seem to be able to bring myself to do it. Even getting my blood pressure checked at the doctor’s office makes me nervous. I almost instantly get knots in my stomach and have to remind myself that the cuff only will be on for a minute. But I can’t really relax until that thing is off my arm.