Recently I did something I’ve never done before; I donated blood. For years I’ve been scared to roll up my sleeve and offer up my vein, thinking it would be extremely painful and as a result, I would never want to go near needles again. The process was painful and somewhat tiring; but I’m referring to the paperwork, not the donation.
When I first arrived at the donation center I was asked, in Hebrew, if I had a temperature, which is the standard Corona era question we have all become accustomed to answering before entering a public facility. I understood the question, but my nervousness sent any Hebrew vocabulary I possessed right out of my brain. I declared right then and there that I would be speaking only in English.
A young woman was assigned to translate the registration forms for me. And so we began…
“Do you smoke?”
“Have you taken any medication, including Tylenol?”
“Have you been out of the country, recently?”
“No,” but I really, really want to travel.
“Do you have a heat-related health condition?”
It’s summer, of course, I have a heat condition!
Then I was told I couldn’t donate blood. Not because of the possible Tylenol digestion or heat condition, but because somehow my blood pressure was 93/70…too low. They said they would give me five minutes to raise my systolic number. Once it was at least 100, they would accept me. Challenge accepted.
Google had plenty to say about how to lower blood pressure; almost like it didn’t believe someone would want to raise the numbers on the Sphygmomanometer. I had to ask Google three times to get my question answered. Finally, I found these tips: Drink water, eat something salty, avoid alcohol, get my thyroid checked.
Out of these four options, I had only one which was immediately available, to drink lots of water. I gulped down about a half-liter of water and then, to be safe, I thought of the most stressful situations I could imagine, like being in rush hour traffic on my way home from Ulpan.
When I was certain I was hydrated and stressed, I sat back down at the registration table. They placed the cuff around my bicep and pronounced, “103/70.” I beamed, having finally found a good use for my anxiety. I was taken in and placed on a gurney. My heart began to thump, my fear of pain kicking into overdrive. I began to get cold feet, thinking this was a bad idea, a terrible idea. The volunteer held my hand, and with one small pinch, the needle was in.
“That was it?!” I wanted to cry tears of joy. I’ve had eyebrow plucking experiences which were far more painful.
With the worst over, I relaxed and enjoying the soothing playlist I had created for the occasion. But about five minutes in, I did begin to feel pain. Not from the needle, but from the tourniquet. I waved at the volunteer and motioned for her to loosen the band around my arm. She did and then there was absolutely no pain; I could’ve been laying in my bed at home, that’s how comfortable I felt.
Ten minutes later, I was told to get up, slowly...oh, and to eat a cookie. Feeling slightly woozy, I made my way to the table that had lots of different treats to choose from. I chose a cookie with powdered sugar, sat down, and took a bite. Instantly the dizziness went away. So, I ate another cookie, just to be sure.
Then a guy with a camera came around. He took a picture of me, then another and another. I was so flattered, maybe my inner glow was shining through. I straightened my shoulders, waiting for the next photo to be taken when I suddenly heard clapping.
The vice-mayor stepped into the room from the doors behind me, bodyguards at his side. I laughed, realizing that none of those pictures were of me, only the celebrity behind me. I finished my second cookie, took the free hat that I was offered, and went out to where my husband was waiting for me in the parking lot.
The joy I felt was immeasurable. Not only had I overcome a childhood fear of needles, but I had also taken a small part in saving a life. If you are thinking of donating blood, but are afraid it will hurt, I can assure you, it won’t be as bad as you may imagine! But the paperwork might be painful.