Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The Iron Cross

I am not much for awards for personal heroics, but I had an experience last night that demands, in my mind at least, that there should be something done of an outward nature to reward the people in question.

A few months ago, I was ironically asked by the leaders of our Church to be in charge of the semi-annual blood drive wherein our 3500 members are given an opportunity to donate to the American Red Cross. There was a great deal of humor generated when the officers of the Church discovered the nature of my genetic condition. A few wanted to know if it was contagious and, if so, would I infect them. They apparently have some sort of fear of needles as well.

In any event, I have spent the last couple of months coordinating the arrangements between the ARC and the Church so that the building would be ready for them to set up their equipment and to have sufficient donors there to make their visit worthwhile. In times past during the last five years, about 25 to 30 units of blood have been donated at each session. Anita, my contact, was certain that we could do better, but nothing up to this point had proven effective. I said that I would do what I could. She, by the way, also found it outrageously humorous that I was to be the person in charge.

Without going into all of the particulars, I will simply say that by the time the drive started at 3:00 yesterday afternoon, we had 118 people pre-registered to donate blood. By the time of the end of the drive, at 8:00 PM, the Red Cross had been able to collect 78 units of blood. They had skeptically only brought 80 pieces of equipment to the affair, thinking that our estimates were just a little high. They were surprised and pleased. I hope that they don’t expect greater things in the spring. I did, however, learn some things from the experience.

First, it is not a good thing to have a cold, the flu, typhoid fever, mad cow disease, or malaria just prior to coming to give blood. The ARC considers that state of affairs a sanguinary sarcasm of the first order and treats the afflicted one with a certain degree of contempt. Of course, each individual had been given a 20-page booklet to read when they first registered, in which the mad cow disease was specifically mentioned. Some of the workers were certain that not everyone was taking the required time with the booklet. I frankly thought that they were just extremely fast readers like Evelyn Wood. I wonder if she gave blood fast.

Additionally it is important to know that if you have spent any length of time in a foreign country like Zimbabwe, Cambodia, Outer Mongolia, or New Mexico, you won’t be allowed to give blood. New Mexico is included on the list because most people working for the American Red Cross do not realize that the place is really a State in the United States. This fact is complicated by the fact that President Ulysses S. Grant said, while travelling through New Mexico, “I understand that we fought a war with Mexico for this desolate piece of property. I think that we ought to fight another war to force them to take it back!” One fellow served as a missionary in England several years ago during the mad cow scare and he has never been allow to donate blood since. He came last night to see if the prohibition was still in effect. It was and the ARC ushered him out of the building by enticing him with a bale of hay.

Some of the potential donors had blood vessels that were too small. When I go to the Infusion Center, the ghouls there use a 14-gauge needle on me. There is a virtual torrent of blood that pours though that stainless steel needle. I asked one of the nurses last night what size they were using. She said that they regularly employ a 16-gauge needle. Any larger than that and the blood vessels don’t cooperate, she said. I began to wonder why the Infusion Center chose to deal with me as they have. Maybe at 6’4 and 230 pounds I can be drained with less finesse.

I was startled at some of the developments during the night, events which were treated with such a baize attitude that I concluded that these were regular happenings at these organized blood-lettings. I was sitting at the registration table, minding my own business, when I heard a “thump”. I turned to see what was going on and there was a young mother who had just given blood, on her hands and knees. She had blacked out on her way to the refreshment area. She was propped up on the floor, with a little pillow and a bottle of water until she could recover sufficiently. Not five feet away was an empty gurney on to which I thought she should have been placed, but the attendants simply made her comfortable where she was. Her baby boy and her friend that she had come with sat on the floor next to her. They were there about 25 minutes. I propose that this girl be given the “Iron Cross” for her pains. This award for valor was first given by the Prussians in 1813 in conjunction with the Napoleonic Wars. I think that since she had to suffer there on the floor rather than on the gurney that her medal be upgraded to the “Grand Cross of the Iron Cross” for her troubles. A lovely and appropriate tribute.

As I was wandering about during the drive, I met another donor who, for some unexplained reason was splattered all over his right side with what I am certain was his own blood. When I asked about it, someone said, “Oh, that happens all the time!”

I thought to myself, “You know, I have been giving blood for over a year, both by the pint and by the ounce, and I have yet to be drenched in my own blood, even though I have joked about the possibility.” The fellow was cheerful about the resultant spray, almost as if he had been shot down over Belgium somewhere. Well, I think that someone ought to strap the “Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross With Blood Squirts” around that fellow’s neck. He deserves the recognition.

The last episode concerns a rather large man, young and full of life, who came into the building about 6:30. He was almost the last person to leave the place. He sat strapped to a table for over an hour and a half while the technicians tried to find a vein that would work. They never did. When he got up from the place where he had been tied down, he staggered a bit. I asked him if he was okay. He said, “Yeah, it’s just that my leg fell asleep.” He had track marks up and down the inside of both arms where they had attempted to put in the needles. I had the willies for an hour after that. I decided that the American Red Cross needed to come up with a special award for his valor under fire, as it were. I recommend the “Knight’s Cross with Gold Oak Leaves, Swords, and Diamonds”. Erwin Rommel got that in 1943 and he didn’t have nearly as many holes in him as my friend did.

I arrived home shortly before ten after having put everything away with a few of the brethren. The techs were gracious enough to swab up the blood and iodine, but we still had to put way the tables and chairs.

I think that the next time I go down to the Infusion Center that I am going to ask for the “Star of the Grand Cross of the Iron Cross with Sarsaparilla Sprigs and Lorna Doone Clusters”. It’s about time!


Anonymous said...

Hehehe! A most entertaining blog! I gave blood once, and it made me sick for 2 days. NEVER AGAIN! Besides, I have AB positive, the universal recipient. It's pointless for me to share... :(

Katscratchme said...

Good to know that about New Mexico... I no longer feel that ridiculously tiny pang of guilt about not going... :D
It seems to me that since your iron levels have gone down so significantly, you ought to be eligible to donate by now? No?
It also seems to me that those armed with needles should be much more deft at their chosen profession... It seems that the Cherry Hill Massacre could have been avoided.

Rebecca said...

I agree... very entertaining blog. I used to donate every six months before I had children. I had a sense of heroism every time I did. I always felt light headed but fought to stay standing... :)

Since having children, every drop of blood is prescious and I won't let any one touch me. Even with routine blood tests I become extremely protective and make it very clear that they better do it right the first time.

I'm glad you had fun last night.

Judie said...

I do used to be a regular donor until the diagnosis. Now that my ferritin level has stablelized at around 45 they still won't have anything to do with me. It breaks my heart, because the same as shy I am AB positive, but the babies need our blood. Hopefully the FDA will get some sense into them and make it possible for us to donate.

Judie said...

Forgot to mention I found this entry very entertaining. Started off my Sunday morning just great. I check everyday to see if you have written something. I was about ready to call you when this latest writing came up. I worry when I don't hear from you. Think I will call anyway, just to hear your voice.