Thursday, 30 June 2011

Sacrifice & Release

Writers are a strange breed. We absorb our surroundings. Observe everything from a distance and close up. Every experience is logged into our psyche to be used at a later date for a story. This past Monday, I was doing just that as I rode in an ambulance for the first time.

Allow me to explain.

I’m a believer in giving blood. After all, it’s in me to give. Three people benefit from my worthy sacrifice. I was on donation #39 – an old pro at this blood letting thing – so I knew the drill well. Go get my hemoglobin examined to see if I’m okay to donate. Check. Go answer a multiple of skill testing questions (BTW, I’ve never handled monkeys before). Check. See a nurse, get blood pressure and temperature taken, then answer some more awkward questions. Check. If you passed the nurse’s assessment, then it’s on to waiting your turn for a gurney. Check again.

The process of giving blood is also well, a process. Your arm is propped up on an arm rest, you relax back in the chair, the nurse swabs your arm with a disinfecting agent for what seems like forever (okay, a minute), then a vein is chosen and tapped just enough to make it rise for the occasion. A needle is then injected into this site and the blood letting begins. I choose to look away for this particular ritual because I swear the size of the needle’s gaping hole looks as if it’s smiling back at me like a hungry crocodile. Once the needle is in, I relax, play with a rolled up paper towel in my hand to ensure flow and the whole process is over between 8 to 12 minutes. By this time, I know I’ve earned my coffee and cookies, and pretty much feel like a super hero.

That feeling didn’t last long. Super heroes are most likely immune to gravity. Me – not so much. As I got my card signed by a wonderful volunteer, I started to feel light-headed. I knew I had to sit down and fast. I didn’t quite make the chair and fell flat on my face. The next thing I remember is a woman calling my name. At that point, my super powers had left me, and I felt weak and numb. My chin was cut, my ego bruised (along with the left side of my face). Stubbornness had got the best of me. 911 was called and the ambulance came. In all this, I kept my sense of humour in tact and absorbed the experience like a sponge during a deluge, as any true writer would do.
The Canadian Blood Services Staff are amazing. Like a colony of ants when something goes awry, they move with precision and strategy to take care of the things most important. I was cared for, fussed over, checked over, and rushed to the closest hospital within twenty minutes of my fall from grace. Now that’s service. I want to thank all those on hand for ensuring my welfare – Janice and Cathy in particular – and for seeing to it that I didn’t deter others from donating that day by putting a screen up in front of my fallen frame. (It would have been bad advertising, I had commented in my stupor).

As I went on to survive the ordeal – the hospital drugs helped a ton – the next day I got a call from a nurse working with the Canadian Blood Services. It was professional and pleasant, except for the part where she told me I couldn’t give blood anymore, at least for the time being. Part of me died in that moment. I was released from my duty, I thought sadly. Cut from the team I had been a part of for such a long time. I hadn’t even made it to 40 donations. No more ‘Donor for Life’ pins to come in the mail. No more coffee, cookies and comrades. I was shell-shocked.
Then, it occurred to me. Everything happens for the best (and for a reason). Maybe, through this blog, one of you, your friends, or any kids you may have or know of over the age of 17 could take my place. Just one person needed to replace me. That’s it. Think about it. You can make a difference to three people. Think about it. You could save a life. Think about it. You can do a beautiful thing.

Just think about it. Then, if you decide to take my place, call 1-888-236-6283 or go to  and make an appointment to give.   

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