Friday, July 21, 2006

Clara, Mom, Sarah

Clara Barton was my childhood heroine. I had a couple books about her which I read over and over. She was tight, you guys.

You know who else is awesome? My mother. That woman birthed six healthy babies without drugs. I was there for the birth of Jennie, and I’ll grant you that this was her last delivery, so she handled the labor with astounding professionalism. It still, however, blows me away that through even the strongest of contractions this woman made no audible sound of pain. Her face was a mess of stress, but Mom bore it so silently, so sacredly. Amazing.

And then of course, there is I. Apparently I will faint at a strong wind. Need to take some blood? Nighty-night. My sister, Hobo, and I are very similar in this way (see her post entitled: Story Time). We inherited this from our father, who didn’t pass his Vietnam physical due to a bout with hepatitis as a child. Personally, I think they flunked him because he passed out in the waiting room after drawing blood. Dad isn’t army material, never was, and for this I give a quiet sigh of thanks.

Such a strange feeling, fainting. When you wake up you feel like you’ve been asleep for at least an hour, but they tell you you only lost consciousness for a few moments. Huh? No way. I’m so sleepy!

The last time I fainted, three years ago, was probably my favorite. Our firm held semi-annual blood drives in front of the office building. I had never been able to give blood because of my, shall we say, dramatic reaction to such things. But by St. Petersburg and all that’s Florida, I was bent on doing it this particular year. I told myself: this is all in your head. You can beat this. You are strong. Be the Clara Barton. With the semblance of confidence, I signed my name to a time slot.

I read up on what to do to prepare. Beginning three days prior to Dracula Day I drank liter upon liter of water. The morning of, I went to IHOP and loaded up. Huge breakfast. A few hours later, I made my way to the donor bus, swigging Dasani and ready to pour.

I was so confident that everything was going to be fine. I felt certain by my taking the right steps and doing all the right things I’d be able to say, “Why yes, an entire pint of my blood was donated. I didn’t feel a thing!” And I would stand tall, fun and fainty-free.

Filling out the paperwork prior to getting hooked up, I took a moment to channel the stoicism of my pioneer ancestry all the way from my stone-faced grandmother back to Sarah Gardner. Sarah Gardner was the third wife of my ancestor, Archibald Gardner. Do you think all women are built for that kind of life? Sarah was a serious specimen of Woman. And in the blood bus, so was I. In that moment, I was ready to eat bark and wrestle hogs. Don’t mess with this, baby. I give blood. That’s right. They stick their needle in one arm and I arm-wrestle male nurses with the other. Have you seen my guns? Fear me. I look at blood and laugh. Needles tickle. Bring it.

I sign the papers and they take me to an open chair. I’m cool. I’m cool right up until I meet Carmen, the 16 year-old nurse wannabe. The fake nurse, the not-nurse Carmen begins to draw with purple marker on my arm where she wants to stick the needle. (Note: veins are very noticeable on my pasty skin, and should not require the use of a pen to accentuate them.) Carmen looks more nervous than I. For good measure I decide to turn my head away and hope for the best.

Not the best. Carmen rammed that thing in as if she thought her mission was to impale me with nothing but a butter knife. Carmen needs to find another career. Perhaps professional embroidery if she’s so gung-ho on needles; it’s unlikely the cloth she’s repeatedly pricking will jump back and howl in agony. It took Carmen three tries with my arm, I wonder how the alphabet sampler she stitches would fare. I’m sure she’s a lovely person. She’s young, there’s time.

The surge of adrenaline from the needle issue sent me into a sweat, but I was hanging on. I tried to regulate my breathing and think of Pismo Beach. Oh, how I tried. Meanwhile, my blood began to fill the bag, and thanks to the endless liters of water I’d been drinking, it was filling up fast. I started talking to another co-worker in the chair across from me thinking it would distract me from what was happening….and then. It started.

I felt the blood drain from my head, and I remember thinking: why can’t I get enough air? Hang on, Mare. You’re almost finished, the bag is almost full! It was a race – stay conscious just a few moments more! The rest is kind of a blur. I remember someone calling my name, and I tried to respond, but I really needed to…you know… and then I think I went sleep-sleep.

I woke up moments later, like seconds later, in time to feel them remove the needle from my arm. This got my heart going and I remember yelling (or what I thought was yelling), “DID YOU GET ALL THE BLOOD? DON’T TAKE IT OUT TILL YOU GET ALL THE BLOOD!” A voice not Carmen’s started explaining that it’s kind of against their policy to draw blood from unconscious donors. I asked her if they got a full bag from me. Like a knife in the back, her reply was: “You were almost there, honey.”


The rest of the story is boring, so I’ll wrap it up with the bare points: ice pack, seat reclined, orange juice, everybody staring, fighting back tears of disappointment. The End.

So I was beaten. But I will rise again. Like the Phoenix. Like the Clara, like the Sarah. With iron fists. I will give this world a pint of stinkin’ blood if it kills me. And when I get my little sticker saying I did, I’m not putting it on my lapel. That baby’s going straight to the bronzer.
Excellent Mary! I understand your plight and it took some doing but I have donated a couple times without fainting. I mean, I can't have these good viens that the nurses all marvel at for nothing. Don't give up.

And I have no doubt about your mom being such the trooper. She was always great to me and seemed a pillar of strength. Great woman.

And Archibald Gardner? Can that be the same man who built a mill out in South Jordanish, that is now a restaurant surronded by the homes that housed his many wives, but now are great little boutique shops. Called Gardner Village? Britten knows what I speak of.

PS....I got a little queasy reading your post.
sarita: eek. sorry about the queasyness.

the same man, indeed. i've never been to his little village, but i hear it's just precious. as i mentioned, i'm a descendant of sarah mabel haun gardner.

finally, thanks for the encouragement. you inspire me!
Yes, I heard about you fainting downstairs in the blood mobile!! Michelle Gagnon (our official blood sucker) was very concerned. Keep trying!! Take care.
wow, i had no idea we were related to celebrity pioneer polygamists. great.
for the record, i've never fainted before (dermo office was a close one, but i came off it) and didn't faint when i gave my pint 'o blood. so there's still hope for you, mary.
Mary, Michelle was the co-worker I was talking to at the time! How funny!

Thanks for the encouragement, NG.
I've always wanted to donate because I'm O- and thus the universal donor and I always felt slightly guilty when watching ER and they called for a pint of O neg and I thought of all the lovely O neg running through my veins that I was depriving hospitals of. But alas, three attempts and I have been denied each time. My veins are too small and too deep and the bloodmobile people won't even try to stick me. So I have to live with my guilt.

Plus, I did almost pass out the last time I got blood drawn, so it's probably for the best. I didn't go all the way, but my skin got clammy and all the sounds started getting far away and I saw the little bloodletting intern as if down a long tunnel.
I have a similar problem to Kelly. Glorious O- coursing through my veins, however the veins are very reluctant to give up even the smallest amounts. I've even called the Red Cross to ask about donating and they said if my veins are bad, it's not worth the effort. Sad day.

Hope it goes better next time Mary.
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