I'm pretty much a Red Cross information brochure on how NOT to give blood.
The first time I went to give blood was in high school. While many teenagers counted down the days until they could get their drivers' licenses, buy lottery tickets, and get into R-rated movies, I was excited to be 16 because it meant I was eligible to donate blood! (I do not mean this sardonically. This is a true story.) So when my school's blood drive rolled around I signed up, and before I knew it I was sitting in a makeshift cubicle in the gym answering a series of awkwardly personal questions. "Have you ever had Mad Cow Disease?" "Have you ever lived in the U.K. between August 1987 and March 1995?" "Have you ever been a prostitute?" "Have you ever shared a needle with Tommy Lee?" "Have you ever had sex with someone who has had sex with someone who has had sex with a prostitute, or Tommy Lee?" I think you get the point.
After passing the multiple choice portion with flying colors, I moved on to blood testing. To be honest, I think the tiny finger prick they give you to test your Iron levels might hurt more than the real suck-your-blood needle. When the nurse gave me the stamp of approval, I headed on over to the waiting area where I found the best part of donating blood: FREE COOKIES! And juice! You can't beat that. They WANT you to eat their free cookies because the cookies make your blood stronger. Or something.
Everything was going swimmingly, even when she stuck the needle in my arm. Things didn't start to go south until a few minutes later, and then I started to feel a little woozy. The next thing I know, my neck was cold and wet and there were three nurses hovering over me. It was kind of like the end of 'The Wizard of Oz,' but with more panicking. And blood. Apparently, I had passed out and had a small seizure. (As opposed to a large seizure, like the ones on TV where they have to hold the person's tongue and stuff. Gnarly.) As I sat up, I realized two things: 1) The football players from my Stat class who were sitting on either side of me were looking at me with a mix of fear and disgust, and 2) My pants were wet. Not to worry; I had not peed, I had only spilled my juice in my lap during my slight seizure. And it gets worse: While I wasn't paying attention (I was still trying to fully grasp the whole seizure thing) the nurse tried to wrap my arm in a PINK BANDAGE. Oh hell no. I was having none of that. I made her change it to green. My dear mother brought me a dry, juiceless pair of pants to change into, and I took it easy at the Red Cross station for the next two class periods, munching on free cookies. But the terrible part of the story (worse than seizures, and needles, and Tommy Lee even) was that they were unable to collect the vials of blood they need to test the blood, so the half a pint I had donated was unusable.
That was the first time I tried to give blood.
I'm sure you're wondering what kind of masochistic person would try to donate blood again so soon after a debacle of a first attempt such as this one, but I took that experience as more of a challenge from Mother Nature. Challenge accepted!
My next several attempts weren't nearly as interesting. The second time I tried to donate, my Hematocrit levels were too low. Attempt #3 went without a hitch until afterwards when I started to feel light-headed in Government class. By my fourth time, I was a little freaked out by my apparent tendency to almost pass out. I was so nervous that my heart rate was above the limit for donating. The very patient nurse tried to calm me down three times, but no such luck. Every time she came in the cubicle to take my pulse my heart started pounding like an eleven-year-old girl at a Jonas Brothers concert. By my fifth try I was in college, and the Red Cross bus came by every month or so. Aside from having to wait an exorbitant amount of time to donate, there were no complications and I effectively gave blood for a second time! My next visit to the Red Cross bus was less fruitful. I waited for an hour and a half, and when my turn came I was really excited that I passed the Hematocrit test and my heart rate was within the acceptable range. And then I got to the questions. "Have you gotten a tattoo in the last year?" Um... Yes. But I had researched it before and the waiting period was 6 months. Jim the medic informed me that they had changed the regulations, and hadn't I seen the sign on the door? Oops. You mean there was a way I could have known two hours ago that I am ineligible and could have avoided wasting a good portion of my day if I had just bothered to read a sign? Wonderful. (Seriously, though. Who reads signs? Psh.)
So you can see why today's victory is such an exciting moment for me, and for the Red Cross. While I count today as a win, I did come close to passing out in my class immediately afterward. I am now 3 for 7, making my record about the same as that of the Cleveland Indians. (Which is to say, bad.) If my blood-giving was a Major League Baseball team, it would be the 5th worst of all 31 teams. I'm just saying.