Saturday, August 7, 2010


Just as I hit the publish button on my last post, I knew. Too late. It was out there surfing the electronic waves. My optimism of the day would soon encounter what Wall Street is so cleverly spinning as a “correction.” I’m fortunate that it didn’t correct like the Crash of 1929 or of recent times. Instead, it was a simple and innocent phone call from my local blood donation center asking me to make an appointment.

I’m a long-time visitor to the United Blood Services facility to the point that I’ve developed scar tissue in and around my lucky vein. In fact, I’m there so often that they know I’m boring as hell and they auctioneer the interview questions. The only time I tripped them up was when the cardiologist told me to start taking the low-dose aspirin every day. However, recently they have been forced to add new questions. (I think it was to see if we were listening.) “Has your mother ever lived in or visited for three months or longer in Mexico, Central America, or South America?” This is where I’m in danger of peeing in my pants from holding back a huge burst of laughter.

My mother, like most men and women of her age in Arizona, actually believes Sheriff Joe. (See SB 1070.) He’s fired up the whole state into thinking that we will all be murdered in our beds by illegal aliens pulling trailers of lawn care equipment behind their beat up flying saucers. There is no way in hell that she would dream of crossing the border. “They’re murdering all the Americans down there!” (My mother, the ultra-conservative Bible-thumper, missed the whole Hippie era. Her “Summer of Love” was when Grandma and Grandpa bought us a riding lawn mower and because it was something that looked like fun instead of work, Dad took over mowing our immense farmyard instead of Mom with the push mower.)

So where was I? Oh, yeah. Blood donation.

At my last visit to the Center, I was scheduled to give platelets. This means that I’d be parked there for two hours. I don’t mind the time at all. In fact, longer is better. The clinical staff at the Center is thoroughly trained at the local comedy club. By time the draw is done, I’m weak not from blood loss, but laughter.

But that appointment was not good. My lucky vein is not lucky anymore. I settled myself into the chair. Joe, who is staffing the platelet section, wraps my upper arm with the blood pressure cuff and pumps it tight. Then he whips out his trusty purple marker and palpitates the crook of my left arm commenting on my needle tracks. “Those are all yours,” I tell him. He nods and makes two dots to guide his needle. When the skin is dry from the alcohol scrub, he takes the needle and jabs it in.

Let me state right here that I have a high pain threshold and am easy going about this part of the draw. I even like to watch. Fresh blood is the most beautiful color, I think.

This one hurt. Joe has a puzzled look on his face as he re-palpates the elbow. He partially withdraws the needle and jabs it back in. Rinse and repeat. After a few mutterings under his breath, he straightens up and calls Dan over to try his luck. Long story short, I end up with a tiny girl that is 36 months pregnant bending over my elbow with Joe and Dan looking over her shoulder. My hand is dark purple and I’m sweating with the effort of sitting still. Finally, after making Swiss cheese out of my inner arm, they give up.

“We can try your right arm,” Dan suggests. No, they can’t. I have carpal tunnel in that arm and two hours of squeezing the 1¾-inch alcohol wiped PVC pipe would not be a good thing.

Later that same day, my daughter is sitting in the same chair. Phlebotomists are bent over both of her elbows searching for a viable vein. They are palpating and prodding, and she is squeezing and holding. That’s when, she told me later, the gal who interviewed her walks past and says, “That’s Joni’s daughter.” In unison, the two phlebotomists backed away. They sent her home.

So, folks, today my daughter and I are scheduled for another go. This time we’ll just try for whole blood. It’s quicker and the needles are different. I can use my right arm for this one. Wish us luck.