Bled Dry

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Yes, I'm giving something back. Unable to ignore the persistent phone calls and letters, I made an appointment at Clarence Street to give a pint. They are appointment only now, which means you don't have to sit for 45 minutes in the waiting room, drinking the weak cordial and running to the toilet, before you can sign to say you have never lived in the UK or had a tattoo lately. This is before you can sit in the second waiting room till they call you to the bleeding recliner rocker. Then you have to wait for the actual needle. The woman doing the questionaire was obviously so bored she had just memorised a monologue. “Any immunisations lately been overseas since your last vist haven't been sick at all.” By the time I calculated that the tetanus shot has been in October she had forgotten the question. “What?” “I had a tetanus in October” “Oh, OK” I had been bleeding into the tube for some time when I noticed the bag seemed to be bulging quite a lot. I couldn't see the monitor but I was starting to wonder when someone was going to unhook me. I waited. I looked around for the nurse looking after me but I couldn't see her anywhere. The bag got fatter and fatter, much fatter than I remember it being last time. Another nurse passed by and looked at my blood bag, and stopped. “Who was looking after you?” “Um, I don't know her name.” She turned the machine off and took the needle out, and then I got pixels in my view and static in my ears. I was tipped backwards in the chair, perfectly designed for restoring blood flow to your head. I had cold cloths put on my head and neck. Another nurse rubbed my hand. I was then told one of the most transparent lies I have ever heard. “I think watching the needle come out probably just made you feel a bit queasy, that's all”
I do actually know a bit more about blood banks than the average arts graduate, because when I was in primary school my mum worked at one and I used to go into work with her fairly often. It was a great job, in some ways, because in those days it functioned as a sheltered workshop for medical professionals with serious work-life balance issues. One of the things I liked best was the tea-room, the lounges and the little packets of individually wrapped biscuits and the kind, old age volunteer tea ladies. I'm sure Mum did do something, I know she started a magazine called The Plasmapheresis Donor, but all I can remember is sitting in armchairs having tea and biscuits and everyone laughing a lot. I couldn't eat too many biscuits, because I hadn't given blood, but the message was clear. Blood donation = treats. When I was in grade 2 Mum was invited to talk to the year 7s about blood. At assembly each class had to report back on what they had learned, and I glowed like a celebrity as the big kids dutifully recited that Dr W taught us that blood has groups and Dr W told us about... “Emma, is that your Mum?” I was too much of wuss to donate blood when they came to our high school but I was told that in deference to your teenagehood they gave coke and a mars bar.
I am very disappointed that now that I am finally a blood donor there are no biscuits, no coke, no mars bars and not even any tea! I was given an apple joice in a box and pale pink hot dog. I did enjoy their laminated placemats though, each with a story and photo of someone whose dire illness was averted through a blood donation. I think it's no accident either that they have only chose very cute people, mostly babies

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