Sunday, January 24, 2010

Blood Drive

     Uncontrollable fear. Shaking. Hoping for it to be over.
I knew that I didn't like blood. I've known that ever since I broke a blood vessel a few years ago, but more than anything I was determined to help.

     A few weeks ago, I decided that I wanted to participate in my school's blood drive. My cousin strengthened my resolve through positive peer pressure.

     The large cafeteria was filled with ominous black chairs that looked like they should be sitting on a beautiful front lawn rather than sitting there and looking so terrifying.
It was surprising to see the faces of the other people who were donating. There were skinny skaters with long dreadlocks, jocks who laughed lightly about donating a pound of blood, and there were also goth girls that silently kept to themselves. Even though these different groups of people didn't look like they had much in common with each other, I admired them.

     Although my appointment was set for 2:30, the school cafeteria was so full of hopeful donors that I wasn't seated to begin the donation until about 5:30. Really, my fear of blood was a bit irrational, but I couldn't help shaking. The medical personnel were laughing at how badly I quivering as I sat in the chair before giving blood. At first I blamed how scared that I felt on the cold, but it wasn't long before I realized that it wasn't the cold at all.

     The man (whose name tag read "Nick,) was about to slip a long needle into me. Looking concernedly at my skin color, he asked
"Are you okay?" trying not to laugh at my apparent unease.
"Well... I'm anxious because I'm scared of blood." My teeth chattered as I tried not to imagine the red liquid pouring out of my arm and into the big plastic container at my side.
"This must be your first time..." Nick looked down at my application and medical information searching for my name,
"Beth... Well, don't worry; this is my first time too."

What little nerves I had left dropped down into my stomach, I sat there nervously wavering like a leaf in the breeze.
"Wait... Is it really your first?" I spluttered, almost pleading for him to take back what he had just informed me.
To my distress, he just shook his head,
"Really, this is my first day."

All of my memories seem a little fuzzy after this point, but I remember trying really hard not to imagine the blood or needles involved. I thought about how my blood could save someone's life, and that someday, maybe some brave teenager would save my own life someday.
An iodine swab was used to clean around the large blue vein in my pale and shaking left arm. Fortunately that one act helped calm me down a little bit, earlier I had thought that the big patch of iodine on a fellow classmate's arm was a large spot of blood.

Nick looked at my arm, searching for the perfect vein to stick the needle in. Ironically he laughed,
"Well, it is very easy to see your veins. This is going to be so easy!"
It wasn't.
A moment later I closed my eyes and looked the other way as he plunged the long needle into my translucent skin.
It was a pain that was completely unexpected. My veins literally rolled and refused to give blood. Not understanding that my body was having a rare reaction to fight off giving blood, Nick pushed the needle further into my veins and began twisting it. He really wanted my blood. My veins didn't want to give more than a single drop, so instead they screamed in pain as I clutched the thin air to try and stem the throbbing sting. I gritted my teeth to avoid moaning and scrunched my eyes closed, trying to block out the pain. Tears were teasing my eyelids and threatening to leak down my face.
Nick looked confusedly at the doctor next to him,
"Her blood isn't really coming out! Only those few little drops."
"Well," the doctor replied, eyeing down at me through her spectacles,
"she must be having a reaction." she said simply, still focusing on her own patient.

     By now some H.O.S.A students were looking at me rather worriedly. I can only imagine the look of pain that I must have had on my face. I didn't understand what a reaction was, all I knew was that it was an extremely painful experience.

     To my relief, the needle was yanked out of my arm quickly and covered with a wad of gauze. After a few seconds of getting some fresh air into my lungs, Nick began to tell me the situation,
"Well, there are two options Jojo..." he paused, as if trying to decide what option I would choose beforehand.
"We can either stop trying to draw your blood altogether because the veins in your left arm weren't willing to give up the blood in your system; or we can try your right arm, the chances of a reaction happening again in your right arm are a lot less likely."

     I could be done, I didn't have to face the pain of a needle being stuck into me ever again if I didn't want to. I didn't have to donate my blood, and now I knew that for me it might not even be possible. There was one thing that I knew for sure, I didn't want to face the physical pain that I had just felt ever again...
Or I could be brave. I could do what I'd been waiting for hours on end to do. Somebody's life could be saved if I would be willing to endure the pain by holding out a little longer. I wasn't trying to be a hero, but my own stubbornness wouldn't let me give up when the choice was difficult.
That one split second choice was the hardest quick decision that I've ever made in my entire life.

     This time, my blood would have to be pumped into my arm before I began to donate, nervously I held a stress ball in my right hand and squeezed it to allow the blood to flow. Pressure was applied to my arm until I could feel nothing except for the numb tingling at the end of my fingertips.
My right arm's veins were a lot harder for Nick to locate, and he had to ask the opinion of his co-worker to decide which vein would be best to poke the needle into.

     Once again I was too frightened to watch as Nick smoothly slid the needle beneath the surface of my skin.

     Blood poured out of my arm and into the waiting plastic bag at my side. Unfortunately I didn't have very much blood in me, and I had to keep squeezing the stress ball so that it would come out. Every time I had to squeeze the ball, the needle would prick my veins sharply and irritatingly.
Over the course of the next five minutes, 3000 calories of blood were taken out of me.
A pint, a pound, enough life blood to make me paler than I already was. The multiple doctors agreed that they couldn't let me leave until about thirty minutes later when I got some of my color back.

     Overall donating blood was a painful experience, but it was worth it. Even though I'm still more scared of blood than anything else, I'm really glad that my blood was able to become useful. Now I really realize how important it is to overcome fear!

Friday, January 15, 2010

A Reflection of Forever

There’s a certain crash of sound--
Aquamarine waves.
Like the Life that’s all around,
The Ocean’s song wakes.

The Sea stretches forever,
Like stars out in space.
Our own concept of never—
Hardly has a place

Heaven and Earth meet far off—
Their colors blending;
Sometimes harsh and sometimes soft—
Always Reflecting.

The good of Life can be seen,
Looking out to Sea—
It’s constant, sparkling blue sheen
Shows what we can Be.