Blood Drive

Narrative Essay

By Kara Chacko

  At first I didn’t even care about the assembly I was sitting through.  Everyone else I had talked to had decided against participating, so I decided that I wasn’t going to either.  However, as I sat and listened to the woman talk, and saw how sincere she was, I began to listen with a new interest.  Then she put a video on featuring stories of the people and families this affected. There was one in particular about a little girl who had gotten in a car accident and would have died had she not received a blood transfusion.  Due to a blood drive held earlier that day, the little girl’s life was saved.  It was then that I made my decision.  I was going to donate blood.

            I was still only 17, but that’s the age requirement for donation.  I knew I was well above the weight requirement as well.  It was the laying on a table for 15 minutes with a needle in my arm that was bothering me.  But then I started to think of what it would be like if I needed blood or someone in my family needed it.  I knew I’d hope that another person would donate the blood for me.  So as the movie ended and the bright lights flooded the auditorium, I stood and walked proudly to the desk set up in the back of the room to sign up as a donor.

            A week prior to the blood drive I had to begin following some guidelines that would assist in making my donation an easy and painless experience.  I was to increase my water intake to an unusual amount of nearly 10 glasses a day.  Doing this would keep my body well hydrated and make it easier for the needle to enter my vein and the blood to come out.  Also, the day of the drive I was to eat a big, healthy breakfast.  This would give me the energy I needed for the donation.  I was supposed to avoid caffeine and artificial sugars and any type of medicine so my blood would be in its purest form.

The morning of the blood drive I woke up early and my mom made me a delicious breakfast.  As I walked downstairs I could smell the aroma of eggs, bacon, and toast drifting up the hall.  The sound of the bacon sizzling and the dishes being moved around gave me a warm, toasty feeling that calmed my nerves and made me relax.  As I sat down at the island in the center of the kitchen, my mom served my breakfast to me.

            I sat, ate breakfast and drank orange juice.  My mom reassured me that everything would be fine, but at the same time she asked how I could do it.  She was so afraid of needles it seemed like everyone had to be.  But needles never bothered me.  In fact, I wasn’t afraid to give blood at all.

            When I got to school that morning everyone was buzzing around nervously asking each other what time they were scheduled to donate.  I had scheduled myself for 9:30am so I could miss my British Literature class (we were watching a movie and I wasn’t up to it).  Everyone else I had spoken with wasn’t scheduled until later that afternoon.  I would be one of the first donors.

            A little impatiently I sat through both of my morning classes.  Before I knew it, though, it was time to make my way down to the gym and begin a process that would change my view on life.  As I walked through the halls down to the gym, I saw some other students who had already donated and I asked how they felt.  “Okay,” my friend Dirk had said.  “I just saw someone faint when they sat up!  It was so weird…”

            Great.  That’s great.  I knew that you could faint, or even throw up for that matter, but I didn’t think people actually did.  “Oh, well, I’ve got to get going.  I’ll talk to you later,” I said while quickly slipping past Dirk and out of the conversation.

            I entered the gym slowly and immediately noticed there were big, long, blue tarps spread across the entire gym floor.  On the immediate right was a long row of tables with piles of papers on them.  Further to the right were little cubicles of beds where the donating people would lay.  There was a table with snacks right before the door to exit.

            I walked into the gym and over to the tables.  A girl gave me some papers to fill out and told me to sit on the bleachers.  I had to read information about donating blood and sign some permission slips.  After I handed those in, I received more papers that I took over to a cubicle and began to fill out.  They were the personal questions.  I had to answer these questions regarding drug use or whether or not I had any diseases.  At the end of the group of papers, there was a sticker sheet.  I had to choose the sticker that either “Yes, use my blood,” or “No, don’t use my blood.”  This section is put in so if I got to that point and decided that my blood wasn’t safe to donate, I could save face and still go through the donation process even though my blood would just be thrown away.  I had to now make my personal, moral decision that my blood was clean and I could donate it.  So I taped the “Yes” sticker on and handed my papers to the nurse.

            Next I moved on to a nurse’s station where I sat perfectly still and the nurse pricked my ear with a pin.  After using a small, thin tube to draw blood out of the hole, the nurse dropped it into a cup of water.  In order to see if my blood had enough iron in it, this step is necessary.  If the blood sinks to the bottom of the cup then my blood was good.  My blood sank and I watched it as I held a small tissue up to my ear.

            The nurse informed me that I could move to the next station to get my pulse and blood pressure taken.  Not only was everything good but it was perfect.  Yes, I had perfect blood pressure.  The nurse at that station made me feel worthy of the duty I was about to perform.  She handed me the bag I’d use for my blood donation.  “Sit over there,” she said pointing to a group of chairs.  “Someone will get you shortly.”

            “Thanks,” I replied and nervously took a seat.

            Shortly after I started babbling incoherently to the people sitting near me, a final nurse walked over to me with her hands out.  I handed her my bag and followed her to my cot.  She told me to relax and have a seat.

            “How long have you been a nurse?”  I asked as I jumped nervously onto the cot.

            “About 27 years.  But I have been doing the blood drives with the red cross for six years.” 

            “Oh,” I sighed, a little relieved that she was such a veteran.  “Do you like what you do?”

            “Oh, yes.  I love it.  In fact, I donate blood whenever I can.  We do drives like these at businesses and schools almost everyday, “ she said as she tied the rubber band around the top of my arm.  Then she got a cotton swab and sanitized the area all around my vein in my left arm.  “Lie down,” she said with ease.

            As I laid down she handed me a small cylinder shaped piece of wood.  She told me to squeeze it as hard as I could.  “Are you going to do it now?” I asked.

            “Yes, I am, okay?”  she replied. 

            “Yeah, that’s okay.  I just wanted to know so I don’t watch you.”  I turned my head the opposite way, squeezed on the cylinder as hard as I could, and stared at the clock on the wall.  Soon thereafter I felt a slight pick (which hurt less than the pick on my ear) and a small burning sensation.

            “Release the fist,” the nurse said gently.  She undid the rubber band around my arm and I felt a little movement near the needle area.  Then she said, “Okay.  You’re all set.  What I need you to do is count to five and squeeze on the wood for a count of two.  Then release for five counts and do it again.  I need you to do this over and over until we’ve filled your bag, ok?”

            “Ok.”  So I did.  I faithfully and diligently squeezed and released every five counts as I was told to.  I lay on the cot with my eyes closed and shortly got into a routine with the squeezing such that I didn’t even think about it.  Five minutes later the nurse came to me and looked at the bag.

            “You’re doing good,” she said.  “You’ll be finished soon.  I figured as much.  It was easy to see your vein so I thought you’d be quick.”

            “Oh, good,” I said as I closed my eyes and returned to my method.  For the next five minutes I kept doing exactly as I was told and soon the nurse came over again and announced that I was done.

            “You’re all finished, “ she said as she took the needle out of my arm and placed  a cotton ball over the hole.  She took a piece of tape and put it over the cotton swab.  She bent my arm at the elbow, told me to sit up and hold the arm above my head.

            “Are you feeling dizzy at all?” she asked.

            “Actually, no, I’m okay,” I replied, amazed.  And I was.  My escort came over and walked me to the snack table.  As I sat down they gave me a cup of juice, a cupcake (to raise my blood sugar levels), and a tee shirt.

            As I sat and talked with some of the other students and ate my cupcakes, I realized that it was that easy for me to help so many lives.  In the long run the main point of my decision to give blood is really because of the motto that had been ingrained in me since I was little.  The simple concept of “Do unto others as you would have others do unto you” is the principle that made me appreciate the benefits of what I had done.  Sure, I got out of class, I got stickers, a tee shirt, snacks, and bragging rights, but the best thing I got out of my blood donation was being able to give.