The blood donor clinic comes to town every fifty-two days. I try to donate regularly. They keep saying they are desperate for blood but I was turned away last time because I was borderline anemic. I showed up at the seniors center in high hopes I’d got my hemoglobin levels up, eating more beans and taking a multivitamin again. My blood tested 127, suitable for the taking. The place was packed and all the volunteers were apologetic they were significantly behind schedule. I came prepared. I’d gone for a run in the early morning before work, cleared my evening and had brought a few zines to read. Zines fold open flat and are easy to flip with one hand while the other arm is bleeding out. Over an hour passed till a gurney was free.
The nurse strapped on a blood pressure wrap. Asked me to pump my fist and hold tight while she found the vein. She was just about to pick up the needle and said “Oh – my shift change. Sorry, someone else will have to take this over.” She waved over a young nurse, who had complimented my non-leather boots earlier. She looked nervously at my arm, said “I’ll find someone else” and disappeared. A male nurse I’d had on a previous donation came over.
Nice, chatty guy -but- on that prior donation, when he inserted the needle it burned and stung for fifteen or so minutes and my blood drained slowly. Another nurse; who I’d been watching hustle around fussing on everything; came over, “Tsk”d at the laboring tube, aggressively straightened my wrist and the needle popped out spraying blood; ending the donation. I didn’t like the way she touched me. I wanted to give this male nurse the benefit of the doubt that the poorly inserted needle was a fluke. I mean: this is what they do full time as a mobile clinic up and down the valley.
He inserted the needle. It burned like hell. He started wiggling it around. I let out a “Uh-h-gah”. He stopped, stiffened and quickly said “Looks like we didn’t get it. I’m so sorry” and called for help. They gave me the option of trying the other arm. I looked at the zine in my lap, considered the hour and a half I’d been waiting and said “Sure. Let’s try the other arm.”
While he dealt with labeling new supplies to the left of me, the friendly nurse poked at my right arm with her finger. She called over the younger one who had liked my boots. “I feel a vein here, it’s thin but I think it could work.” The young nurse bent in and prodded with her finger “Really? I feel a thicker one that would be better here.” Both leaning over me pushing into the crease of my arm. The frantic, blood spraying nurse from before appeared. Muscled her way in, all three jabbing together. I quietly said, “This is getting ridiculous.” She yanked my arm away from the other nurses, pressed it into her body and declared loudly to the room “I wouldn’t use either vein.” The three stared at her in disbelief. I piped up “Okay. I’m done here. I’m going home.”
They clamored around me, as if I had given a pint of blood -to which a certain amount of attentiveness is necessary, you could pass out- but I was fucking fine; frustrated by how rude she had been to her colleagues. I just wanted out of there.
Even though every donation I’ve given, save two, has been smooth, I’m conflicted whether to cancel my next appointment. I don’t think wriggling a needle till you hit a vein is how it is done. The first time it happened I chalked up as a mistake but the second time makes it a real shitty mistake he’ll probably make again. The anxious nurse just has a terrible manner; inflated by how nice the rest of the mobile clinic staff are. I think for now I’ll keep my f-king A positive blood to myself. I’m still mad about the experience… it’s an ugly choice.