It’s me, Skyring. Today I went down to the mobile bloodbank to give an armful of blood in memory of Becky, whom we lost two years ago. Something I do twice a year, on her birthday in February as well. If I’m organised enough, I can squeeze in a third donation between 15 and 29 May, given that they won’t let me donate more than once in a three month period.
I know you’re a veteran of these things, and give plasma as well and I’ll never catch up with you, but it’s something that gives me pleasure to help out, and to remember Becky, who was a loving and generous soul, and an inspiration yet.
I’ve learnt from past years, and this time around, I gave up my normal huge Starbucks mug of coffee in favour of fruit juice. And more juice.
And yet more juice while I drove down to Tuggeranong where the mobile blood bank is located today. When they asked me to hop on the scales, I protested that at least 10% was fruit juice, but I don’t think they believed me as I sloshed off.
Not a great experience this time. They always have a bit of trouble and I steered them to the good arm. The nurse dug around in it for a little, and then gave a little exclamation. I opened my eyes, and she apologised, said she had accidentally pulled it out the needle, and if I was at all squeamish I should avert my gaze.
She mopped up the blood and got me to swap end for end on the narrow bunk to get to my other arm. An antique mobile bloodbank, two narrow bunks on each side, an airline-wide aisle between with the staff, volunteers and donors forever bumping bottoms.
Second go was more successful, but after a suspiciously short time, my nurse was clucking over me again and fiddling with the needle and jiggling it around inside my elbow. Finally, with a blood flow of zero, she pulled it out and told me to avert my gaze if I was squeamish. Which I did, but not before I saw an impressively long blood clot which had grown up inside the needle.
At least my platelets are clotting well. They packed me off with a biscuit and more juice. They’ll use my blood in a sort of general pool, rather than as a nice tidy pack, but it won’t go to waste.
My elbows and I wandered around, did our shopping and drove home, where we decided I’d be best placed to spend the rest of my day quietly reading.
I like giving blood, actually. I feel that I’m a small part of the grand machine of modern society. Doing a little bit to help out.
And who knows, one day I’m liable to make a withdrawal.
But the best part is the people you meet. As ever. I have a lot of time for nurses, to begin with. They self-select for caring, empathy and compassion. One of my best jobs was working as a computer programmer for a nursing agency, and the rest of the staff were nurses, full of smiles and jokes. Practical, reliable people.
Much like yourself, really.
Volunteers help guide the flow of donors. They hand out the forms and the pens, keep the fruit juice flowing, steer people to the appointment booking sheet for a return visit and just take the load off the nursing staff. Full of smiles as well, they put the donors at ease, and laugh at all the tired old jokes that nervous people come up with.
And of course, there are the donors. Some of them have been giving blood for decades, and they know the drill better than anybody wearing a badge. There’s something joyous about giving, and all round, the atmosphere is just wonderful.
As you’d know far better than I.
Oh yeah. Kiva. More on that next letter!