too many words by laura lemay


This morning I gave blood. I am ridiculously conscientious about my blood donation; I am there like clockwork every 56 days. I figure my blood is more useful to other people than it is to me: I have a lot of it and I can make more. Plus: free cookies and juice and funny retired people to talk to.

But the last bunch of times I’ve given blood I’ve had problems with sludginess. Poor plasmatic viscosity. My blood loves me so much it doesn’t want to come out. I’ve made sure I’m well-hydrated; I’ve given blood under the influence of aspirin and not; my iron is good; I wear warm clothes. I’m not quite sure what the problem is.

What usually happens is that they stick me, I start to bleed into the bag, and then a little later the blood people come over and say “Hmmmm.” Sometimes the machines will be blinking little red lights that tell them that I am a Bad Bleeder; other times they can just tell. They scold me for not squeezing. I am squeezing, I insist. They arrange the tubing. The blinky lights continue red. And then they decide that something is wrong with the needle.

I should point out here that I have HUGE VEINS. I’ve talked about it before. I have veins that make the blood people go “wow, that’s a really big vein.” The problem is not the vein nor the needle. The problem is that I apparently have cherry jello for blood. I am actually stretch armstrong. (note: this is a joke only about four of you in the entire world will get).

But no, the blood people have to play with the needle. At first its just a little wiggle; maybe the needle is pressed up against the side of the vein. They just have to move it a little. But that doesn’t work. Maybe its in a bad spot. Wiggle wiggle. Maybe its not in far enough. No, that’s not it. Wiggle wiggle jiggle ream ream jab jab, oops sorry did that hurt?

Eventually after many painful needle manipulations they find some position in which they can get blood out of me in less than an hour, which usually involves propping the needle up at a right angle to my arm with a lot of rolled up gauze. Meanwhile my arm is going numb and four or five speed donators have come through the room and had their cookies and juice and moved on with their lives.

Maybe I just have extra-concentrated blood and they can add water and get twice as much normal blood out of it. Dilute! Dilute! OK!

Today, thanks to my frozen orange juice blood and the exertions of the sadistic whiteshirt who was convinced that surely the needle must be in there wrong, here let me try THIS position, I have the most enormous purple bruise on my arm yet. It looks like I’ve been chewed on from the inside. Altruism looks kind of like a big purple whale.

(here is an an explanation{.broken_link} of the stretch armstrong joke)