Every thought I had the first time I gave blood

Picture a huge needle stuck into your arm, blood spewing out of your veins. Sounds horrific, right? Well, that was exactly what I thought would happen if I were to donate blood.

Every year, when the American Red Cross Blood Drive date for approaches, my school nurse shares a Power Point on why we should give blood. This year was like all the others, except that I was eligible to donate and thus had to decide whether I would or not. I ultimately decided to suck it up and face my fears; I signed up to donate. But, being brave enough to save my fear of donating blood didn’t mean I didn’t have any second thoughts about it. As an inexperienced blood donor, absolutely crazy thoughts went through my head during the process. Here’s a peek inside my head at all the craziness that went down as my time slot approached.

12:15 pm. It’s Friday afternoon and I am starting to think this is a bad idea. What if I faint? What if the needle is HUGE? How are they going to find my vein?

12:25 pm. I have to pull it together. I can do this. I can totally do this.

12:30 pm. My appointment is in five minutes. Maybe giving blood won’t be so bad after all? I even got to leave class a little early for it. I could get used to this.

12:35 pm. I’m walking to the gym and totally tensing up. I try to let go of my nerves and embrace my inner Elsa: “Let it go, let it go. Can’t hold [my fear of giving blood] back anymore… the cold [and needles] never bothered me anyway.” My creative juices are flowing, let’s hope my blood will too.

12:40 pm. Phew: I made it through all of the imposing white Red Cross trucks and tents. I am safe, in the school gym, nervously eyeing the patient tables. Oh wait, is that table to my left overflowing with homemade brownies and coconut chocolate chip cookies? I will get through giving blood if this is what I get afterward!

12:45 pm. I’m reading leaflet after leaflet about all the diseases I better not have, countries I can’t have visited and important facts I need to know (side effects of fainting included). Um, why am I doing this again?

12:50 pm. I’m handed a yellow slip with the number 20 printed on it. Why not 7, my lucky number? Whatever, let’s do this!

12:55 pm. One of the nurses comes over, her mani-pedi matching her suit and long-sleeved shirt. “Is your favorite color periwinkle?” I ask. “Yes,” she says. I couldn’t tell.

1:00 pm. I thought this pumping blood out of my arm thing would only last half an hour but here we are and I just sat down to … answer some more questions about my health. I can’t believe I’m not actually giving blood yet.

1:10 pm. The nurse and I have confirmed that my name is, still Emma Taylor about three times now. I am female (apparently a question worth asking). I should have put on lipstick this morning. Oh wait, I would have looked like a vampire at a blood drive. My finger is being pricked and covered up with a Sponge Bob Band-Aid. I feel ready to rock n’ roll.

1:15 pm. Yes! I finally get to lie down on the patient table. My friends are there next to me and one of them asks why my knees are shaking. Well, because I’m nervous! I say it’s only because I had to take my sweater off to facilitate the finding of a vein, #whitelienumber1.

1:21 pm. The nurse asks if I’m “ready” after taking my blood pressure and giving me a red heart to squeeze. Of course I am, I tell her … #whitelienumber2. She double checks to make sure I am the same Emma Taylor as three minutes ago and that I am still female … note to self: At the next blood drive, wear lipstick. The needle approaches and I discreetly look up at my friends instead of down to the side where my arm is slathered in disinfectant. I get a little pinch and I start saving lives, one pump of blood at a time.

1:25 pm. My advice to you: Go with the flow (pun very much indented). All you have to do is squeeze the heart every ten seconds and keep your arm still. Piece. Of. Cake (or cookies, depending on what is waiting for you at the free food table). I get yelled at because I’m moving my arm too much. Try to hold your laughs in if your friends are good at distracting you with funny jokes and stories.

1:26 pm. Two blood cells met in fell in love but alas, it was all in vein. Whatever you do in life, always give 100%. Unless you’re donating blood.

1:27 pm. I’m done. Hallelujah. 6:03 minutes of quality blood donating. I make sure to not sit up too quickly because there’s no way I’m fainting here.

1:30 pm. Cookies, juice boxes, fudge brownies, pretzels, oh my! You mean, I can eat all the food I want? Oh wait, you mean, I have to eat all this sugar and fat? I guess I’ll have to force myself to eat that gross looking brownie. Gosh.

1:35 pm. As I’m eating my third brownie, a nurse walks over and thanks me for saving up to three lives with my pint of donated blood. Yup, you’re welcome, future patients, hope you like my blood/it works out for you. Thanks for the food Red Cross, it was a pleasure doing business with you. I head out the door once my knees stop shaking and I feel normal again. Expect me to give blood again in 56 days. It’s addicting, gratifying and assures that you’ll have good karma for the day, or week. Give blood, a gift straight from your heart (literally).

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