Red Cross

Every 59 days I gird myself, head to the nearest drive, and give blood. All goes smoothly most of the time, but no matter what happens a technician is taught to exude confidence so the donor doesn’t leap off the table and run for the door, despite bribes of cookies and a juice box.

There will be pain, but seriously – no worse than picking a scab or stubbing one’s toe. Yes, this is the pep talk I give myself as I provide my medical and travel history, right before Wanda drills a hole in my finger.


“Okay. Let’s see those elbows. – Excellent. We won’t have any problem at all. – Squeeze your fist and hold. – Stick and sting – we’re in.” Wanda pauses to assess the flow. “Good – good – oh. Wait. It stopped. What happened?”

She pokes and prods, maintaining her game face. “Let me just…”

I flinch.

“…oh that must have hurt. I’m sorry. One more time. Okay?”

“Since I’m here….”

Jab jab jab prod jab. “Nope. Hmm. Carol?”

“You need some help?” the supervisor asks.

“Just a little.”

“Be right there,” Carol assures us.

“I’ll keep trying,” Wanda assures us.

All the other donors who started about the same time I did are headed to the snack bar. Carol joins us, sees my longing gaze. “Would you like some water?”

“Oh yes please.”

Carol gives Wanda this task while she attends to the recalcitrant needle. She pokes and jabs, presses on the vein, tugs on the tourniquet, gets nowhere. “Oh. I see. When she rocked, you rolled.”

Not the needle. Just a tricky vein.

“Would you like to try the other arm?”

I shrug. “Sure.” My enthusiasm has waned, but not my determination.

The blood that didn’t go in the bag runs down my elbow and pools on the table. “So now you want to bleed,” Carol says, cleaning me up.

A fresh kit, fresh swabs – again we start. Pop.

“You can tell that one went in,” Carol crows. “You nearly came off the table! And look – you’re flowing now!”

I drink my water in celebration and don’t watch as I fill the bag.

I listen to the instructions – “Don’t smoke, don’t lift weights, drink extra water, and don’t skip any meals.”

I head to the cookie basket ready to start on that last one, sporting my “I Gave Blood” stickers and several Band-Aids like badges.


© Copyright 2012, Jane Harkins. All Rights Reserved.

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