A few years ago, while studying engineering in India when a blood donation camp was held at our college, a group of us girlfriends – all first-timers at this thing and super-enthusiastic about it – decided to volunteer together with the intention of donating the life-saving fluid. At the venue, strangely, before doing anything else, we were first given food to eat. We then lined up for the tests that are done before donating blood. One by one, we began to get disqualified. One girl was underweight, another had low hemoglobin and so on. We came away without having done anything of use but just having consumed free food!
Smiling at that memory, I decided that for my birthday this year in June, I would donate blood for the first time in my life. I was inspired by a colleague at my workplace who had done it specially on his birthday (in addition to donating blood every few months). I would be lying if I said that I was not scared. I feel slightly queasy at the sight of the red fluid and the thought of my own blood flowing out of me freaked me out. But I began to work up the courage as the days went by. I read up on information online, kept up a steady ration of eating dates along with other good food and when that day arrived, I felt I was ready.
I had scheduled an appointment two days before my birthday at the American Red Cross center in San Jose, California. On reaching there, I was ushered in to do the initial medical tests which somehow made me feel as apprehensive as I used to feel back being a student writing important exams. Fortunately all tests passed and the much-awaited moment drew closer.
In an elongated room where donors reclined in black chairs with tubes coming out of their arms sucking their blood, I carefully avoided looking closely at them or at the collection bags at the other end of the tubes. They all looked relaxed. The lady next to my seat casually flipped through a magazine as she donated blood. To the nurse who prepared my arm for the needle insertion, I mentioned that I was a first-time donor and that I did not wish to see my blood through the transparent plastic tubes. After she pricked in the needle which felt only like an insect bite, she helpfully hid the part of the tube coming out of my arm with a paper napkin. The friendly lady chatted with me to put me at ease as the clock ticked away and the blood seeped out of my body.
Fifteen minutes passed and it was over. I was quite elated when I realized that I felt fine. However, the nurse told me to remain in the sleeping position and I got off the chair only after some time. The break room area where donors could recuperate was close by and I started walking towards it. I might have taken those few steps more energetically than I should have and maybe overestimated how I was feeling because as I reached the part where the small cafeteria portion of the hall began, I started to feel slightly weak and light-headed. I leaned on a counter for support and saw my husband sitting on one of the chairs in the cafeteria holding a book he had been reading and smiling up at me. I said aloud, “I am feeling a bit dizzy” when suddenly my vision began to blur and my eyes started to close just as those words left my mouth. Next, I thought I was seeing a dream in which a crowd of people came and went in front of me.
A few seconds later, I opened my eyes and found myself lying on the floor! Surprised, I listened as a doctor who was leaning over me told me that I had passed out. My husband was sitting next to me holding my hand as I lay down. The funny thing was that, at first, he thought I was just joking and acting when I had started to fall in slow motion to my side. Luckily, the volunteer who had been standing next to me had caught me expertly otherwise I might have hit the floor hard. He provided blankets to keep me comfortable, got me food and drink. I was told to lie down and we passed the time chatting with the volunteers there. An hour later, I felt better enough to walk out of the donation center, a red bandage on my arm, a coupon for free ice-cream (a pint of ice-cream in return for a pint of blood!) and a cherry red sticker with a heart shape that read “Be nice to me! I tried to give blood today.”
My husband was a great sport through all of the fainting business. The volunteers were very helpful too. They informed me that such incidents happen only to petite girls like myself or people who haven’t eaten or rested properly prior to the donation and other donors are absolutely fine. All in all, it was a good first experience, the losing consciousness part not withstanding and I felt happy when I got a call a few months later from the American Red Cross saying that my blood had been used to save three lives. They also mentioned that there was a shortage of blood currently and asked if I could come in for a donation anytime soon. I passed on the message to my husband and I also take this opportunity to encourage eligible readers to do the same since this precious fluid is in high demand and low supply these days. Go on, give away to those in need – your precious, red blood…