Last week I gave blood for the first time. In the past I never thought much about donating. I’ve always realized the worthiness of the cause and need for donors but exempted myself out of caution and convenience. Other people will donate their blood, and that’s good for them. My blood? Gross. Mine will stay inside where it belongs; it’s better that way, and less messy.

It started as my typical Wednesday, a boring econ lecture and then theology class where boring would be too generous a word. For some reason, I stressed more than usual over my grades and next semester. Everything seemed like a huge deal. My thoughts almost made me dizzy as I walked through red square, until I saw the blood drive flier. It hypnotized me like a vampire. We need your blood Fran, we need your blood. They need my blood. I must give. Somehow I thought giving blood would be the answer to my stress. I walked straight to bulldog alley and signed up. I was on a mission.

Getting though the paperwork and brief physical were no small feats. Questions upon questions about illnesses built up the butterflies, however, the patient nurse answered more of my questions about nothing in particular. I tend to get chatty when I’m nervous. “So, what’s that instrument?”

“A thermometer.”

“Wow.”

“What’s that one for?”

“Sterilization.”

“Cool.”

“Can I have two BandAids? Please?”

“Sure, if you need two.”

“Will the finger prick hurt?”

“I already did it.”

“Really? Great.”

That nurse approached sainthood as she calmly listened to my anxious banter.

I passed the medical history and physical exams and moved on to the final stage in the process, the part where the blood actually leaves your body and you’re not just talking to hear your own nervous voice.

“OK honey, let me just find a vein here.”

Find a vein? Were they missing? The large male nurse then started to draw on my forearms with magic marker, squeezing certain parts with the deepest concentration. “You’re nervous huh? The veins seem a little tight.”

“Me nervous? What? Giving blood is my middle name. I do this for fun. I think you’re the nervous one.”

He could only chuckle.

“OK little lady, here’s where I stick in the needle. You’ll be fine as long as you don’t look.”

Those directions sounded easy enough. Don’t look. Don’t look. And then he did it, and of course, I looked. How could I not? It was like a knitting needle going into my forearm. The sight of it was far worse than the minimal amount of pain, but I was nonetheless prepared with my full repertoire of rehearsed dramatics.

“Oh my God. Is it over? Ouch, the pain. Make it stop.”

“Make what stop? I haven’t done anything yet. Now if you’d just relax, it’ll be over soon. Just think about something else. What’s your favorite color?”

Who can think of colors at a time like this?

“Red, I guess.”

Red, of course, the color of . blood. My blood. I’m giving blood, into a little weird bag. Actually I was going to say love. Right. Love. Sure.

“So, how are you feeling now?”

“A little dizzy. A little woozy. A little woozy.”

“Honey? You still here, hello? Honey?”

I sipped on water and lay back in the chair with a wet towel on my forehead and neck.

“You’re almost done. Just a little more. OK, terrific. Good work. You’re done.”

“I’m done? That’s it? It’s over? Wow.”

“You stay here for a few minutes and then be sure to get something more to eat and drink. Thanks for the blood, you just helped three people.”

The fact that three people would benefit from my blood made the minor discomfort completely worthwhile. Free cookies and water were nothing compared to the blood donor sticker I wore for the rest of the day, my badge of honor. I felt more relaxed, calmer, almost subdued. The focus was off me and my stress, and on to something bigger, a better effort for other people with real, life-threatening needs.

Later on that day I received a few funny looks. I must have appeared so calm and collected, so free of the burdens of stress and anxiety. That night, my roommate couldn’t hold back.

“Fran, your lips are purple. You don’t have any blood.”

“Gross.”

“Yeah, and your face looks kind of green. What’s up with that?”

“Hey, I was just curing some stress, OK? It’s totally normal.”

“Turning green, normal?”

“Hey, I’m just doing what I can, and I feel great.”

Helping others in this way was a smart decision, to calm my self-induced stress and mental tension. When life gets a little too crazy, a little too much happening at once, it’s exactly what the doctor orders. A little less blood.

Frances Piccone is a sophomore in the McDonough School of Business and can be reached at picconethehoya.com. THAT LOUD GIRL appears every other Friday.

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