Stage One: I showed up for my appointment, and they made me read a little pamphlet, and drink some juice. Then they performed a rather creepy little ceremony, where the woman pricked my finger, and I watched her fill a little glass tube with the blood she was squeezing from it. She then dropped a couple of drops into a weird beaker, and informed me that my iron level is fine. Phew.
Stage Two: She gave me a form to fill out, and they put me in a little booth, similar to a voting booth, where I filled it all out. Every step of the way, they were making it clear that “You don’t have to go through with this! You can leave any time you want!” I gamely stayed the course.
Stage Three: Having filled out the form, I went on to the next doctor, who checked my blood pressure and temperature—both of which were fine—and asked me some additional questions. This was my first worry that I might not be able to give blood; one of the questions on the form was “have you been out of the country in the last 3 years?”, and I was in Venezuela last year, and Guyana and Barbados the year before. But she confirmed that it was still okay. She next moved on to the “high risk” questions: “Do you have AIDS? Have you had sex with anyone who has AIDS in the last 12 months? Have you paid anyone to have sex in the last 12 months? Have you been paid for sex in the last 12 months?” etc. etc. No to all, so I was still fine.
Then, and I thought this was very neat, she gave me two stickers, and left the booth. The stickers were a last chance for me to tell Canadian Blood Services that they shouldn’t use my blood, without causing myself embarrassment. If, for whatever reason, I didn’t feel that it was safe to give my blood—for example, if I had AIDS, but was just to embarrassed to tell the doctor—I was to attach the “No” sticker to the form, but otherwise, I would put on the “Yes” sticker. But the stickers were just bar codes, so nobody looking at them would realize whether I had chosen yes or no, until later on when they scanned the bar codes.
She then gave me a dizzying array of bags, tubes, and other apparatus, which I was apparently going to fill with blood. (Actually, I was only going to fill the big bag with blood, along with a much smaller compartment, which they would use for testing. Then, assuming that all of the tests passed, they would transfer the blood from the big bag into three smaller bags, meaning that I would have donated 3 units of blood.) I then went and sat and waited for my turn.
Stage Four: They called me in, and started prepping me. A very pleasant woman swabbed my arm with alcohol, and then with iodine. She put the needle in—and, since she knew what she was doing, it didn’t hurt at all; it hurt less than the prick they’d done to my finger, earlier, which I could still feel, at this point—and the blood started to flow.
Unfortunately, I don’t think I’d even been leaking for a minute, before she saw something in my face, and asked me if I was alright. I told her I was feeling a bit nauseous, and she sprang into action. (Actually, it was more than a bit; I was in medium-risk danger of throwing up.) You’ve seen those scenes in the movies or on TV, when medical professionals suddenly get very focused, in a way that maximizes efficiency, but minimizes worry for the patients? (“We need to move now! Get that tube out, stat! But there’s nothing to worry about, Mr. Smith; this is all very routine.” That kind of thing.) She called over two other women, and they all quickly worked together to remove the tube from my arm, lower the chair position, ask me to roll onto my side, and even put a cold washcloth on my neck. She told me that they don’t take chances; as soon as something goes wrong, they take everything out immediately.
Almost as soon as they got me on my side, I was feeling better. I’m sure it’s because I hadn’t eaten properly yesterday. (I’d skipped lunch, at work, because I’d simply forgotten to take it, and had pizza for supper.) So, in 2 or 6 months, I’ll try again, and make sure I eat properly first.
Probably the worst part about this is that I think Andrea still believes I got nauseous because I was scared.