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January 26, 2021

Why I’m not allowed to give blood

Blood bagsI am not allowed to give blood.

There is no medical reason prohibiting it. In fact, I have a rare blood type, so most folks in the medical community recommend that I donate. However, I’ve been told to never give blood again.

“Honey, I don’t care how low blood supplies are,” a kind, but frustrated, nurse told me. “Don’t you ever come back here again.”

Perhaps it had something to do with the fact that I passed out twice and tossed cookies all over the Bloodmobile.

I was still in college. The local Bloodmobile had come to my workplace as part of a city-wide effort to boost local blood supplies.  Given my blood type, I felt that giving was a moral imperative. I had a desperately needed, life saving fluid running through my veins.

The experience started easily enough. The nurse asked me the basic health screening questions. All good. She took me to my cot and pulled out the supplies. All good. Then she pulled out the needle. I got a little nervous when I saw the thing was the size of a pen, but she managed to get it in my vein on the first try.

I watched the thick red blood make its way through the tube and into the collection bag. The nurse placed the bag on my lap as she turned to help another donor. That’s when the trouble started.  I watched the bag slowly fill up. It was warm. Too warm.  I remember saying, “Oooh, that’s my blood.  In a bag. And it’s pooling on my lap.” And then I passed out.

I don’t know how long I was out, but I remember feeling the nurse pat my arm and whisper, “Honey, you’re okay. You’re okay.”

I opened my eyes and saw she had a full bag in her hands.  She set the bag down and pulled the needle out of my arm. A stream of my own blood squirted me in the face before she could get the compression bandage on.  I passed out again.

I woke up to her patting my face with a cold cloth. She smiled at me and said, “The first time can be a little rough on some folks.” Another nurse walked me over to the cookie and juice table. She told me to eat and drink slowly.

I was feeling a bit woozy, but the sugar infusion was helping.  My female coworkers looked at me with concern and pity.  The guys were waiting to prop me up if I passed out again. Two cookies and two juice cups later, I felt human again. I headed toward the ladder to exit the Bloodmobile. One of my co-workers tried to make me laugh. I laughed, for a second, but then the cookies and apple juice made their triumphant return all over the floor.

I believe it was at this time that the nurse yelled a creative string of expletives.

After throwing the  clean-up sand on the floor, she sat me down at a table and gave me a napkin to clean my face. She smiled at me, took my hands and uttered those fateful words, “”Honey, I don’t care how low blood supplies are. Don’t you ever come back here again,” she said. “For my sake and yours.”

It’s been 20 years, and I have not tried again. I’ve had lots of blood drawn for various medical tests, and I even looked at the epidural needle before it went into my back; however, I’m still afraid of giving blood. Rationally, I know my first experience was a comedy of errors that will likely never happen again. Thousands of people donate blood every year with no ill effects. Thousands of lives are saved because of it.

Every year of my adult life, I have tackled one of my fears. I learned to swim, sung a solo in front of a crowd, gave birth, held a bird and tried bungee jumping. If I can do these things, I can give a pint of blood. Whoa. I got a little woozy typing that last sentence.

Allow me to rephrase. I can give a pint of blood, but it’s going to take tremendous quantities of Xanax before, during and after the procedure.

15 Comments on Why I’m not allowed to give blood

  1. I would loooooove to donate. LOVE TO. I have no problems with needles, having blood drawn, I think it’d be cool.
    Notice, I said *I* have no problem. But I am not the nurse trying to hit my vein, or getting it just to have it blow. I have tiny, twisty, valve-filled veins. They’re about the same diameter AS the needle. The first time I tried, I thought all was going swimmingly until the nurse ran over and stopped it because she saw the bruise growing on my arm. I ended up having purple all around my elbow. Didn’t hurt much, but she wouldn’t let me try again. I tried a couple years later at the blood bank – their best veteran came to look at my veins, and said, “For that, I’m not even trying. You just can’t donate, I’m sorry.”
    So I’m in the same boat.
    Ooo! Unless we could swap our circulatory systems?????

  2. I used to be terrified of needles. I’ve given blood before too. I just turned my head and didn’t look till it was over. It was at a church BBQ so I had some burgers after I left the bus.

  3. Just returned from my 62nd blood donation, here in the UK for the wonderful NHS. Sorry you had such a terrible experience … I have to say, none of the disasters which befell you have ever befallen me … and agree with others that the needles and blood bags should be kept out of sight unless you actively ask to see them. I admire your determination to try again … do if you can, but don’t give yourself a hard time if you can’t. Some of us are lucky and find it easy. What we need is everyone trying at least once – and if it just doesn’t suit some, that’s fair enough. Thanks for sharing your story.

  4. I’ve given over three gallons of blood over the years. Only once did I pass out (and not my first time either) but I NEVER look at the needle. I’d recommend eating a good (but not huge) meal and donating one to two hours later. Not immediately before or after a meal. And drink lots of water beforehand. And Symanntha is correct, there were numerous errors in procedures there.
    I have a friend who has tried to donate several times but her blood pressure drops too low when she thinks about it.

    • I was an employee at American red cross blood service for years, until I had kidney failure and went on dialysis. Several years later I had lung cancer and had to have 2 transfusions and had a new found appreciation for the donors I worked with over the years. THANK YOU all from
      a recipient.

  5. I just want to say that: That nurse sucked!!
    I have given blood twice and that is not how its done! And how dare she tell you not to come back!
    The bag should have been on a moving table beside you – not ON you. Anyone would get grossed out over having their own blood on their lap!
    She also did something wrong for the blood to squirt in your face! I watch 100 people give at the blood drive that I helped run, and that didn’t happen once. Go back and try again and let them know that you are nervous. A good nurse will distract you and take care of you.

    • I agree 100% … I’m a red-blooded (I’ve seen it) all-American male and no nurse anywhere should have a job performing their work like that!

      Blood bags don’t lay in the donor’s lap, nurses don’t remove needles that cause squirting wounds.

      Please try again … it is not so bad as the episode with that “nurse”.

  6. Sadly-I have had more than one similar experience! It happened in high school-FHS! The last time I gave blood would have been the spring of 1987.
    I gave my pint without incident until the walk to the table for the cookies-I didn’t quite make it. Some kind person noticed I was not the color I had been just moments before and steered me to a cot instead-I hid my head on the table next to the cot as I passed out! I awoke & sat with the others for a cookie & juice when yet another kind individual noticed I didn’t look well. She asked if there was someone that could just take me home. Yes, I replied, my boyfriend can take me! This is where it gets good! I go to retrieve said boyfriend in the computer lab (room with glass walls!) Just let me finish this is what I hear from him. Our wonderful teacher (you probably know the one) saw that again I was not looking well & pointed me to the sink in the corner of the room (yeah the one with glass walls) just as the bell rang for the end of class so EVERYONE leaving that wing of the building could witness be hurling into the sink!! But hey-it got the boyfriends attention & he immediately took my home!!
    The Red Cross called once, because like you I have a blood type that they LOVE to get, I graciously told them that my body preferred to never be a pint low & asked that they not call.
    I think, if I were you, I would heed her advice!
    Thanks again for the great laugh & trip down my own memory lane!

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