Donating Blood Sucks

“I’m bored, so…?”

I donated blood yesterday. Why? Because I was bored. There’s no fantasy dwelling in my head that I’m a hero or some other bullshit motivation for donating. I was bored. I was bored last week when I finally answered the blood banks near daily calls, and I knew I’d be bored this week when I had the appointment. Let’s get right into the bitching, shall we? They call all the damn time to pester you into donating. I understand why they do it — they need blood, platelets, and plasma and have no other way to obtain them — but this doesn’t make me happy when I’m browsing Reddit, listening to music doing very important things and I’m interrupted. Most of the time I ignore the call and mute it, not for any good reason, just I don’t want to deal with it at the time, but I finally answered the call last week out of boredom. They got me.

Boredom makes people do crazy shit. I was bored at work and decided to really see if our hand sanitizer was pure alcohol like it smelled like it was. It was. Afterwards I borrowed a cigarette lighter from a friend to make an impromptu flamethrower from the spray bottle because why the hell not? I’ve heard antifreeze is really sweet and that’s why dogs drink it. It is sweet because I was bored and tasted a small amount of it. A month ago I was so bored I cut down a medium sized tree with a hatchet. We have a chainsaw but where’s the fun in that? Lately I’ve been fucking around with solar power because, once again and as always, I’m fucking bored.

I remember a Vsauce/Mind Field video where bored people purposefully shocked themselves despite it being painful because they couldn’t wait in a room for a half hour without ducking around with something like electricity shocking themselves. Humans are a fucked up species.

It’s a long video, but the relevant part begins at 2:00.

It’s fitting because boredom is the reason I donated blood in the first place over a decade ago. The details are fuzzy, but I recall it was a snow day and school (or college) was cancelled. I was stuck at home alone with nothing to do and was bored. I always knew donating blood was the noble and right thing to do but never got around to actually donating. Until that snow day. I drove a mile to the blood center and told them I wanted to donate blood. They were as enthusiastic as you could imagine. Most regular blood donors seem to be old people, maybe playing into this idea that boredom makes people do crazy shit they normally wouldn’t do. If you’re old, bored, and sick of watching soap operas/shitty Hallmark movies, why not donate every six weeks or so? The blood center people were overjoyed to have a teenager stroll into their lair. To begin on a lifelong journey of doing the right thing and being a good citizen. To give something precious to your community. To pay it forward. To help the stranger that they didn’t personally know but still existed just like them. People in need and literally dying for a blood transfusion. Heroes without capes. And so on.

So they were shocked when they asked me what brought me in on that cold and snowy day to become a hero. “Do you have family in the hospital? Did you want to help save lives? Did you see one of our blood drives at your work or school? Are you religious?”

“No. They cancelled school today and I was bored so figured, eh, why not?”

They gave me a quizzical look and said, “Well, that’s the first time we’ve heard that before…” totally skeptical that anyone would really donate blood just to kill time.

And that started me on my journey of donating blood as frequently as possible for no noble reason at all. Sure I was helping, sure I was doing a good thing, but it’s always been something for me to do periodically. I didn’t care about the “gifts” they’d usually forget to give me, or the free snacks, or those stupid ass window stickers that brag to everyone how many gallons you’ve donated. Who cares? You’re not a hero because you can sit with a needle in your arm for ten minutes; give heroin addicts their own window stickers if that’s all it takes.

The First Donation

I should probably give a quick overview of the donation process so this post is somewhat informative to those looking for a look into the process. I’m sure every place is different, but I also assume the donation process doesn’t vary too much from place to place.

I break the donation process down into four phases. Firstly, they check your general health: temperature, weight, height, blood iron levels, and blood pressure. This is to ensure that you’re not obviously sick or anything. Then they ask you questions (or have you answer them on a paper or computer screen) about your health history: Are you feeling healthy and well today? Have you taken asprin in the past 48 hours? Do you take any medications on the deferral list? Have you ever had cancer? Are you pregnant? Do you have HIV/AIDS? Do you shoot up drugs? Have you taken money as payment for sex? Have you had sex with another man, even once, since 1980? Questions like those. If everything looks good, you actually donate blood. Finally, you’re basically forced to go eat free snacks, have a drink (not that kind of drink sadly), and are forced to socialize with those super outgoing people that seem to haunt the blood donor snack table. You know the type: the old, friendly, grandparenty type that want to talk about the news, weather, or whatever other boring mundane topic to talk to you about. More stereotyping here; I think this is the demographic that is most likely to donate. Old, bored people trying to help that have a slightly inflated sense of “community” or something. Maybe they’re more likely to have underlying health issues that make them in tune with the needs and struggles of strangers. It’s not terrible, but most times I just want to eat my goddamn granola bar in silence.

Actually donating blood is the most interesting and obviously terrifying aspect of donating blood (duh). It’s the part where they stick a giant needle into your arm and drain a pint of blood from your body. I’m not going to lie either — the needle is a massive needle. Most of us are aware of the needles used for vaccines and IV lines and they’re not too imposing. They’re tiny needles. The blood bank uses a needle that has a width of maybe two or three millimeters and imagining that being jabbed into your vein is unsettling. Luckily they’re sharp and while it does hurt the pain isn’t unbearable. After the needle is inserted the nurse or whatever always ask me, “Does everything feel okay?” I usually say, “It feels like a giant needle is in my vein, but other than that, yeah.”

They take some samples of your blood to test and then start collecting. This part is easy: you sit in a chair, squeeze a ball every few seconds, and let your body naturally bleed into a bag. It’s as easy as dying I guess.

I nearly passed out during my first donation. They told me to let them know if I didn’t feel okay, and after a few minutes I started to feel “funny.” I still felt “okay” just funny. Sounds became fuzzy and muted and it reminded me of what sounds are like underwater, if that makes sense. And my vision started to do the same thing, kinda wash out and blur but in a way where I didn’t feel sick or anything, only things seemed strange. So I looked at the nurse and said, “Uh. I feel kinda funny.” She ran over and tilted the chair back to force blood back into my head. Apparently what happens when your body thinks it’s bleeding to death is to transfer blood to your core to protect your main organs. It makes sense for general survival. Once the chair was tilted I ceased to feel “funny,” at least no more “funny” than I typically felt.

So that day I learned that bleeding to death wouldn’t be a terrible way to die. It’s just “feeling funny” before you pass out and die. Good to know. Maybe I won’t panic if I ever experience sudden loss of blood in the future.

They wrap your arm up, make sure you can stand up okay, and send you over to the snack area after telling you to leave the bandage on for four hours. Eat plenty of food and drink plenty of water. If you feel faint or dizzy, sit down and put your head between your knees. Then you small-talk and snack with the old people until you’ve had enough and can’t take it anymore and must escape the place.

And donating blood makes you tired. It’s a different type of tired or exhausted from doing physical labor. You literally feel drained. It makes sense seeing as a sizeable fraction of your blood — the oxygen transportation system for your entire body — is missing so it’s no surprise you feel drained. I noticed I felt really sleepy, yawned all the time, and felt like I was half asleep for the rest of the day. Just unwilling and unable to really participate in life, work, or whatever else was going on. It was kinda peaceful in a way. So if you do donate, don’t plan on helping your friend move or try to run a 10k or anything. As the people at the blood bank would probably say: No shit. Why would you even try to do that?

All in all, being a “hero” is a great way to kill an hour in an otherwise boring day and gives you an excuse to eat like a fucking pig and be lazy. Can’t do physical work if you’re missing some blood! No heavy lifting for me! 6/10: would recommend to anyone suffering from boredom even if it isn’t the funnest thing you could possibly do.

Check out my Instagram where I post pointless artistic pics every whenever I get around to it.

Or my other blog where I sometimes post stories.

Or Wattpad where I have a Morrowind fanfic ongoing.

Or my Facebook page where I don’t do much of anything at all.

4 thoughts on “Donating Blood Sucks

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