Today I did something I had only ever done twice before in my life: I gave blood.
The first time I gave blood was in college. I was not (and am still not) cool with the whole process, because I hate needles. Of course, everyone hates needles to some extent, except for maybe those piercing freaks that hang themselves by hooks in sideshows. But the rest of us normal people don’t like having our bodies invaded by foreign objects.
What led me to give blood that time was a relentless guilt trip campaign led by my then girlfriend. She shall remain nameless, as I would hate to taint whatever life she has now by having her associated with a scoundrel like me. It seems that when she was only 2 years old, she had to have major surgery, and blood donation was a big deal to her because the donations that were made by people when she was only a toddler gave her a happy, healthy life. And she wore on me in that grinding way that only those closest to us have the talent to do, cajoling and guilt tripping me with the tenacity of a terrier with a towel. And I relented. The process wasn’t bad at all, and I felt a bit wonky afterward, but it still took me 11 years to donate again.
I donated on August 10, 2009, because my friend David died. We organized a blood drive in his memory, because he used 23 units of blood during his 10 hour fight for his life. We wanted not only to pay back Carter Bloodcare for the blood that he used, we wanted to make a statement that accurately reflected the life that he led helping others. So I went, on duty and in full uniform, and donated. After I was done, sitting on the cooler full of apple juice, I started to feel really weird. I got tunnel vision, and everyone talking to me seemed really far away. My chief of police gave up his bench seat to set me down and the Carter people did the whole icepack on the neck thing until my world was better. Almost passing out was a weird experience, and not terribly pleasant. But I made a promise to myself that I would donate again, and more often, because other people had done so for David. At least 23 of them.
Two weeks ago Carter Bloodcare called me again. Turns out my blood type is one that is needed a lot (I have often been called “special”), so they asked me to donate again. Also turns out that there is a donation every Monday literally on my way home from work. The only way it could be more convenient is if they actually came to my house and took it from me while I was watching Monday night football. So I scheduled an appointment for tonight.
I was cool today until I got done with work, and the looming blood donation was on the horizon. I got very nervous, because I seriously did not want to go through the whole trying to pass out thing again. To psych myself up, I remembered that 23 other people had donated and gave David a fighting chance, and that I should donate as often as I could. I then decided that my goal would be to donate 23 times. While our blood drive had paid back Carter over ten fold what we needed to make sure David’s family wasn’t charged, donating 23 times would be symbolically squaring the debt on a personal level. I had donated once, so I owed 22 more.
I got through it, and while I was woozy again afterward, I didn’t get damn near fall over like last time. The donation people told me that it would get better every time I did it as my body got used to the process.
Honestly, I don’t care if it gets better. I have 21 more donations to make now.