I entered the American Red Cross where gray-haired people with brown spotted skin filled the waiting room. This would be easy, I thought. I was the youngest potential blood donor in the room by at least fifteen years. I checked in, took a seat, and waited my turn.
I was healthy and in my forties. I had contacted a local American Red Cross office for information, and I had decided to donate. I followed their recommendations carefully: the night before I had retired early, and I consumed the recommended food and drinks.
A staff member called my name and escorted me to a padded chair, and after I sat down she reclined it slightly. The phlebotomist arrived and wrapped a plastic band around the upper part of my arm and wiped the underside with alcohol, that felt cold and smelled sharp and sterile. She found a vein and slipped the needle under my skin, I felt a slight intrusion. I relaxed and blood began to flow in the clear printed bag that had a UPC code. This was better than I had anticipated; I felt no pain and the donation took about nine minutes.
Afterward, the phlebotomist removed the needle and raised the back of my chair to a full sitting position. Then an assistant arrived and supported my arm to help me up. When I stood I felt a cooling sensation flow from my scalp and goosebumps rose on my back. It was like I had entered a freezer. I was nauseated and almost fainted. Two staffers supported my arms and walked me to a chair in the recovery area, where I reclined for about ten minutes.
Meanwhile, the silver hairs from my group rose from their seats, grabbed snacks and drinks, and chatted with their fellow donors like they were at a cocktail party celebrating their retirement. When staff members checked and released them, I wondered if they were skipping in the parking lot.
I sat up and washed down three Lorna Doone cookies with juice, and I improved. Within thirty minutes, an employee deemed me OK to drive. Before I left, a volunteer pressed a sticker on the upper right side of my shirt that read, “I donated blood to the American Red Cross.” She smiled and said, “Keep this on incase you pass out in the parking lot, someone who sees you will know what happened to you.” I had hoped some of the elderly had dawdled outside in case I needed CPR. Fortunately, I had left without incident and continued my errands.
According to the American Red Cross, my experience was the exception rather than the norm. Regardless, for me, it was worth a brief dizzy spell to help someone. If you are interested in more information, please check out the American Red Cross. Hopefully you will donate too.