Today I will catch the train to Chatswood and let a Polish woman stick a big needle into my arm, in order to remove a bunch of my blood. Not enough to leave me deflated on the bed like some kind of Flat Stanley character, but enough to make me feel dizzy, maybe.
I think it’s my tenth? I’m not sure. I’ve donated a bunch of times over the past few years, and by their reckoning (or is it my misremembering?) the lives of three people are saved from each donation. That means if it’s my tenth, I’ve saved the lives of thirty people. I’m a regular fucking Superman, except my superpower is the ability to withstand being used as a human pincushion. For a period.
I’ve never been good with needles, really. I can do it when I have to, but I prefer not to. I suppose that’s not all that surprising: given their druthers most people would prefer not to be poked with a sharp instrument. That’s hardly Bartleby-worthy. But I really hated needles when I was younger. I remember having some kind of inoculation at school while I was in single figures, and not being as freaked out as other kids. But then we moved to New Zealand.
In New Zealand, all school kids are sent to dental nurses for check-ups. Basically if you could imagine Lunchlady Doris, but with an arsenal of tooth-yanking equipment, that’s my memory. I don’t think there was a cigarette dangling from a cavalier corner of the mouth, but the disinterest was certainly there.
I’d had problems with dentistry before – something to do with a grown man sticking their hand down your fucking mouth, perhaps – and when I was a small boy an Orange dentist threatened to smack me if I didn’t stop making sounds like some kind of harpooned animal. Who says conditioning doesn’t work? So when the schoolkids spread stories of terrible stuff happening in the dental nurse’s office, who was I to disagree?
So, we had the hatred of dentistry, and a feeling of dubiousness towards needles. They came together in a perfect storm of warped logic at my first dental nurse’s appointment, where I was told I’d need a filling. She pulled out a needle and said “WANT THIS?” to which my terrified reaction was “HELL NO!” and therefore the drilling proceeded without anaesthesia, setting the scene for most of my dental treatment for a couple of years. Fun, no?
(I did eventually find a great dentist in New Zealand, who used all sorts of sleight-of-hand to convince me that he was about to start injecting when he’d already done it. It allayed my worries a little. But now I’m all about Dr Gab at a clinic around the corner from home, because she’s perhaps a little bit crazy, and because she hates dental procedures too. Maybe it’s just that I need a smiling face with my dental sadism?)
So it was interesting, given the dislike of pointed things (and health procedures in general) that I decided to give blood. I’d walked past the Blood Bank in Chatswood for years, and in an uncharacteristic burst of enthusiasm towards society, I signed myself up one day before I could change my mind. My brother did too, and we figured it’d be something to do each month.
(Chatswood is a boring place to work. Let’s just get this out of the way. It must be in order for embarking upon the path to exsanguination to be considered a Fun Time.)
My first time was pretty quick: the questionnaire took longer than the donation. There was a lot of preparation and swabbing and thwacking of veins but as soon as the needle was in it was all go. I think I was off the couch in about eight minutes, a feat not yet matched, as my veins have decided to be possessive of the claret within ever since, and require heat packs and gentle coaxing to give up the goods. I live in hope that today will be a good donation – not that they’re ever horrific or terrible – because as much good as I know it’s doing, voluntarily losing some of your blood still feels primally strange.
There was a period where I was sick that I fell off the wagon, but now I donate whenever they’ll have me. I know people that work at hospitals, and I know people who’ve been in hospitals, and it’s true that without people like me submitting to some discomfort for fifteen minutes on an irregular basis, lots more people would die. There’s always a shortage, and people seem unable to stop doing stupid, hospitalisation-worthy shit, so there always will be. (Yeah, I know they’re mostly used for cancer and blood disease treatments, but refilling some deflated fall-injury guy has a bit more pep.)
So in short, I’m glad I do it. I’m not the most social guy in the world, and I think it’s a Good Thing. Even though there’s a lot of society I can’t stand, fifteen minutes of my time can help them Not Die at an important juncture. Given my body just makes more of the stuff, it’d be a dick move not to donate, I suppose. So you should, too.
(This arose as part of my daily 750words practice. It’s not edited.)