About a week ago, the HR department at my workplace sent a mass email to employees announcing a blood drive. Without giving it much thought, I agreed to sign up as long as @ provided me with much-needed moral support by signing up as well.
I’ve never actually given blood before. I attempted to once, during a blood drive at “The Ranch” where I worked after college. As the bright-eyed, 21-year-old, Public Relations Specialist, I filled the critical roll of being the hub of Ranch employee communications, and as the "hub," it was my duty to document any and all work-related activities, the blood drive included. The people have a right to know!
My supervisor, PM, who was more like a big sister than a boss, had signed up to donate, and I followed her to the designated location with my digital camera to snap a few photos for the impeccable work of journalism that was our organization’s newsletter, the… wait for it… Ranch RoundUp. But no… PM had other ideas that day as we chatted and walked… she was bound and determined to convince me to give blood.
Impossible! I insisted. For you see, PM, I am terrified… simply terrified… of needles.
As evidence, I relayed to her a story about my teenage years, when I had sprained my ankle during cheerleading practice. Somehow the injury resulted in a red line of blood under my skin inching its way up my leg, which is – for reasons I still don’t understand – not good. Unable to drive yet, my father took me to the doctor, where they insisted that they must take blood. Ever the drama queen (and trust me as a teenager, I was worse), I refused, turned on my heel, and stormed out of the office (did I mention I was 16?). What’s worse, my dad actually let me leave. He just followed me out of the office to the car, and dove me home. Oh, my mom was pissed something fierce. You better believe she got back into the car (I’ll take her myself!) and threatened me with a laundry list of punishments (No driver's license for you!) until I agreed to return to the doctor's.
You could die Lou! Die! (And you were wondering where the dramatic tendencies came from…)
Right, Mom. Whatever.
Side note: The moral of this particular story: Never send a man to a mother's job.
I survived… the sprained ankle, the weird red line running up my leg, and the drawing of my blood. Regardless, the ordeal served another purpose; it solidified in my mind that I am intensely afraid of needles. For the better part of a decade, my fear of needles became a truth, there was simply no denying it, it just was – like the existence of trans fat or Chick Lit – and no argument would convince me otherwise.
Needles are evil... avoid at all costs.
PM was not impressed with my “needles and Lou don’t mix” explanation. And somehow, rather quickly (probably with the ever-popular, “you’re an adult” argument) she broke me. Never wanting to let my boss/surrogate big sis down, I reluctantly agreed to give blood.
During the entire ordeal, I shook with fear... while reading the “educational materials,” filling out the questionnaire, signing away my rights to sue if someone fucked up and I was left with nerve damage, and watching the nurse prick my finger to test my iron. I prayed (prayed!) for anemia… Please God... let my iron count be too low!
Luck prevailed. I failed the iron test and was disqualified. Relief rushed over me. As my breathing normalized, I vowed never to eat red meat again.
Eventually, like most irrational childhood beliefs, my intense fear of needles subsided. Once away from home and on my own, my "truth about the needles" faded into the background of my consciousness and I stopped being incorrigible when it came to having blood drawn. I mean, what is a nurse going to do with a screaming, uncooperative mid- to late-20 something? Probably gather up her nurse buddies for a session of good ol’ pointing and laughing. And frankly, I don’t need that kind of shame.
And, as it turned out, needles weren’t as bad as I remembered.
Which brings us back to last week. Even though I know better now, my fear of needles remains latent... at the casual suggestion that my blood might be needed, it creeps up on me for a moment before I recall, "No, no... me and needles, we're cool." But, still... it's not a choice recreational activity (You know what I really want to do today? Be stuck with a needle). And yet last week, I almost immediately volunteered to let a needle hang out in my arm for... oh... about ten minutes.
It just seemed like... the right thing to do. And maybe... maybe... I don't do enough right things.
Somehow, in my mind, I likened blood donation to a sort of new age Catholic confession… in the Church of the Universe, giving blood would be akin to a cosmic cleansing that would wipe my slate clean and rebalance the scales. A good deed to wash away the bad. It is, quite simply, truth: I scratch Karma's back... and in return... the Universe scratches mine.
Thursday 10:30am: I followed my soon-to-be-clear conscious to the conference room, which had been set up with snacks and juice, lounge chairs and tubing. I prepared myself for the worst... shaking, tears... and hoped for the best... less shaking, no tears.
Honestly, it wasn't horrible (no shaking, no tears)... and bonus... I got an awesome sticker announcing to the world that it better, "Be Nice to Me Today" for I, Lou, gave blood. (Bonus #2: The sticker nicely covers the permanent stain on my shirt from a unfortunate spray butter incident.) And... and... I ate a cookie... guilt-free because damnit I deserved it.
What do you think about that, huh Karm? And don't forget... there's plenty more where that came from! Maybe the Universe can swing back a bit in my favor? Blood’s gotta be worth little somethin' somethin' these days.”
Karma, oddly enough, responded.
Honesty, Lou, is a Universe best practice.
I did it all for the cookie.