Instead of wearing hairnets and dumping instant mashed potatoes on plastic trays at a shelter, our office opted to give bodily fluids for the holidays. We all signed up, went to lunch at the Draft Horse beforehand, and then bravely headed to Liacouras Center where we were each asked in turn in three different ways if we had slept with prostitutes, had unprotected sex with someone who was HIV+, had the skin on our body replaced in the last several months, any new tattoos or piercings, or been partying it up in Africa. I held my tongue about my years in the early eighties turning tricks in Haiti while recovering from my heroin addiction brought on by difficult my kidney transplant.
One of the best things about my job is the people I work with. Everybody is great in a different way; Greg is unbelievably funny, Alberta is calm and caring, Joe will answer any question you pose without pause or judgement (yesterday, I asked him if he thought he was born in the wrong time period. He didn't say, Why are you asking? He said, I used to think that), and Stephanie is a mixture of earnest and cynical that I really like. When we get together as group, I laugh until I have tears in my eyes.
The donation process was not bad at all. The thing that hurt the most was the finger prick at the beginning. It is only grody if you think about the fact that you are voluntarily letting your blood drain out of your body. The really weird thing is seeing your co-workers blood or other odd things, like Joe was across the room from me lying on the gurney with his feet facing me. I thought, Huh, so that's what the bottom of Joe's shoes look like.
As we were nibbling on our cookies after donating, we had a collective moment of hysteria. Granted, we were all a little punchy after having a pint of blood drained out of our bodies, but we couldn't stop laughing when I pointed out this unfortunate little man who was lying on a nearby gurney and had the hairiest, most ape-like arms I've ever seen in my life and bare shiny elbows. It didn't help that he had both arms in the air and so appeared as though he were about to swing from a vine. We had to use the napkins to wipe our eyes. Also, when we were all lying there on these gurneys waiting to be stuck by needles, Greg sat up and said, If I don't make it out of this, please know that I have always loved you. Then he laid back down. A few minutes later, he said, Aimee, don't go into the light!
The experience also brought Stephanie and I together as she experienced a wave of nausea after giving blood. I think part of it was brought on by the detailed explanation given by one of the volunteers describing the joys of platelet donation. She got up to go to the restroom and I asked her if she wanted me to come with her and she said yes, which surprised me. I would probably rather die than throw up in front of someone. But she was completely calm the entire time. Did not get upset and was very matter-of-fact about the whole thing, even had the presence of mind to ask me for my hair tie. She did not get sick, though I don't know how she managed because the bathroom was disgusting. We returned to the cookie table and one of the Red Cross people asked her if she was okay and she said she felt a little woozy and they immediately went into Operation Something's Finally Happening Mode and made her lay down and put really cold compresses on her forehead and neck. She was ashen. I have not ever really seen anyone go pale and wan in a matter of seconds, but she did. I guess the Red X people knew what they were doing because a few minutes later, she bounced back, rosy-cheeked.