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Journals of an Insane Genius -- mid September 1998

"Give Blood - Save Lives", that was the sign that lured me in. It had been a long time since I had donated blood and I figured it was an easy enough way to feel good about myself. So I sneaked out at lunch and got in line.

The form has changed a bit since the last time I filled one out. Let's see, have I ever had sex with a woman who may have had sex with a man who has had sex with another man? Once again I am reminded of just how dull my life seems compared to how others spend their time. I'm able to answer "no" to all of the questions of this type. It makes me a bit nervous to think that people may start to supply "legally accurate without volunteering information" answers to this type of question.

I finish with the form and am directed to the line of chairs to await a blood screening. It's a full house, and as a civilian I kind of stand out. The policy of giving the rest of the day off to soldiers who donate blood has not changed since I was in the Army and there are plenty of volunteers. A man stops by and takes my temperature. I don't think he reads it right because he says its 95.8, almost 3 degrees below normal. It doesn't seem to concern him, so I don't worry about it either.

About half an hour later I arrive at a blood screening station. The person here double checks my answers to the form and then lances my earlobe for a couple of drops of blood. I comment on how that was much more comfortable than the old method of jabbing you in the fingertip. Before she can start to check the blood a tiny bell goes, "ding". She calmly excuses herself and goes over to one of the tables where they are actually drawing blood. Someone has passed out and apparently the polite little "ding" alerts people to come and assist without alarming anyone or setting off a chain reaction of people passing out.

"You weak bastard", I smugly think to myself. I've given blood about a dozen times now and have never had a problem. I usually watch them insert the needle just to show that I'm not a sissy. Fifteen minutes later she returns and apologizes. I tell her not to worry about it, that if they have to ding the little bell for me I certainly want everyone to come running. We both laugh about this while she finishes screening me.

I arrive at the table and roll up my sleeve. The phlebotomist has three tables she's responsible for. Currently one other is occupied. She hooks me up and I ask for the little squeeze ball since I know from experience that I am a slow bleeder. About ten minutes later I see that my bag is almost full. The phlebotomist is busy preparing another donor. Suddenly I notice that the room seems very dark. I look at the windows and it's sunny, it's just that about half of my peripheral vision has disappeared. "No Way!", I think, as I shake my head to try and clear it. Now it's like I'm staring down a tunnel, time to get out of denial and admit I have a problem. "Excuse me", I whisper to the phlebotomist as the tunnel closes down to a pinpoint, "I really don't feel very good". I never hear the little bell go "ding".

I'm having the best dream I've had in months and some inconsiderate person is trying to wake me up. I hate waking up. The bed feels so comfortable. I open my eyes. There are six very concerned faces staring down at me. "I've been abducted by aliens", I think as I close my eyes to try to capture my dream again. They are insistent. I open my eyes again and the realization of what's happened hits me. I glance around and notice that all of the other donors have finished and they have stopped everything while trying to revive me.

They assign a volunteer to me and everyone else returns to their stations. She's pressing a cold compress to my head. I suddenly feel very anxious for no reason. I break out in a cold sweat and I can't seem to settle down. I'm starting to breathe rapidly. She coaches me and slowly I'm able to calm down. I have no idea what I'm so nervous about, but these little anxiety attacks build and fade for about fifteen minutes.

Finally they have me see if I can sit up. So far so good. We sit for about five minutes. All I can think to talk about is what an idiot I am. My volunteer is very reassuring. She gets the phone number of a friend that can come and pick me up. I am escorted over to the cookie area. The soldiers there are polite and don't rag on me for passing out. I really don't feel like eating, but my volunteer insists that I have a couple Oreo cookies and two cups of Pepsi. I feel exhausted, like I could sleep for days.

Half an hour later my buddy arrives. Another Red Cross volunteer comes over to talk to me. "Did you eat breakfast today?", she asks. I tell her I had a cup of yogurt. "That's it? You really should have eaten more before donating blood". She informs me that I have had what is referred to as a "severe reaction" to giving blood today. She tells me that if I'm interested there are other ways to volunteer, but I should probably avoid giving blood in the future.

Unfortunately I left a computer running at work and I need to go shut it down efore I can leave for the day. On the way over my buddy says, "I don't know how long you were out but you had those people scared. That one told me they had a hard time waking you up."

I wander back to my desk and shut down my computer. I'm not feeling too steady, but I figure I should stop by and let my boss know I'm leaving for the day. The door's open. He's talking to someone that I don't know and I hate to interrupt, but I need to wrap this up and get out of there. I step in and say, "Gave blood. Passed Out. Going Home."

The next day he stops by my cubicle to see how I am. By this time word has spread and there are a number of e-mails advising me to "step into the light" waiting in my in-box. My boss tells me that he was actually in the middle of interviewing a prospective employee when I walked in. After I left he looked over at the guy and could see the shock on his face.

"Sorry about that. How did the rest of the interview go?", I ask.

"Good enough", he replies, "I told him that we usually try not to work people that hard at first."

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