This year I started giving blood. I’ve wanted to do it for years and finally got the chance now that the rules stopping people with ‘controlled’ blood pressure have been relaxed. Most people are of the belief that the nurses working at the donor centres are wonderful people, selflessly dedicating their lives to the vital collection of blood. I know them to be sadistic and sex obsessed; loving every minute of their work.
It is of course a brilliant and difficult job that they do – certainly not one that I could ever do and I absolutely tip my hat to them; but do they have to be so rough? Really after all these years can they really not be a little gentler?
It starts when you get there, you get given a book to read and a form to fill in and pointed to a chair that has been deliberately filed down on one leg in order to make it wonky and uncomfortable. The book reminds you that you are a complete health risk to the entire world as far as they are concerned and if you want them to believe otherwise then you’d better be prepared to go into some serious detail and back it up with signed affidavits from the local vicar.
Then you read the questions.
These people are obsessed with sex. To give blood you aren’t allowed to do anything! They test you on all sorts of different scenarios and you’d better not have done any of them. If you’d done half the things on the list you wouldn’t be able to walk surely? It appears unless you’ve only ever had sex with one person of the opposite gender who coincidentally was a virgin at the time, then you can’t give blood; though I noticed there was no specific bar on people who have been romantically involved with animals, so I was accepted.
Having declared yourself a saint you get taken into a private area where they ask you to repeat the questions while they watch you for poker tells. If you pass the stare test then the nurse asks you to pass her your hand. I assumed she was going to read my palm as another check to see if I was lying on the sex test but no, a vice like grip twisted me down on to the desk whilst she produced a needle from behind her back and jabbed it into my finger. I shouted at her to stop, indicating that perhaps she was not entirely legitimate, but I was ignored. A giant pipette was produced and my hand was drained of blood. I’d have been ok with this but I knew full well that this was only another test, this was not job finished. Yet again I passed the test and with a plaster on my finger and a tear in my eye I was ushered back to my chair. I made sure I jabbed her in the kidneys with my elbow on my way past though – you can’t let these people get away with everything.
Then they make you wait as people walk up and down looking busy and holding odd bits of kit with blood in. In your mind you can hear the ‘Psycho’ theme tune playing and someone is running a metaphorical shower. This is the worst bit – having answered detailed questions about your personal life twice and had some nutter jab a needle into your finger you know you can’t change your mind and leave, but you can’t just get on with it either. The longer you wait the more little details you notice, such as the nurses not wearing gloves or the fact that the bags of blood are getting put into picnic cooler bags, what else is in there – Champagne flutes and Caviar?
Then you are up and lying on a bed someone comes over ties a tourniquet around your arm that hurts like hell and then walks away again. An hour later they return and clean your arm , pressing down with all their might to scrub you clean – after all they know that you are really a sex pest.
Then you see the needle.
In it goes with a laugh and a lick of their lips. You are surrounded by women lying around with needles in their arms too so you can’t make a sound or head-butt the nurse but it takes all your self control not to do either. Now you lie back and wait. You keep checking yourself to see if you are drying up. Images of sundried tomatoes come into your mind as you suspect that you have clearly been waiting too long now. Surely if they take any more out they’ll have to put some back in?
Then it’s out and you are done. It’s time for tea and biscuits. First though they have one last evil trick to play. Whilst one distracts you by saying where the custard creams are another comes up and sticks on a plaster 10 cm squared in size and tacked with superglue. You now have less than ten seconds to remove it before it becomes a permanent feature of your arm. What do they do? They set an alarm clock and tell you to stay there for two minutes whilst they watch. They will not tolerate people removing the plaster within a satisfactory sticking time.
I’ve just re read this post and think that it’s just possible that I’ve exaggerated a small amount here and there. Sorry about that. Please do Give blood – it’s very easy, not at all scary, worth while and the nurses are lovely, if a tad firm.