Sunday, February 3, 2013


Have you ever wondered where all the blood comes from for those poor people in the hospital?  In Canada, we have Canadian Blood Services and they are the company that looks after collecting and shipping the blood to the hospitals and medical facilities that use it. 

I am proud to announce that I have given blood more than twenty times.  Voluntarily, too!  Yes, poking my hand with a fork does not count. 

Here is how it works: first of all, what I love about giving blood is that every volunteer in there usually says “wow, thanks for coming in!”  Many people would call me cheap, frugal, cheap, or really cheap, which could be described as accurate—so I am not a big fan of donating money.  However, I have no problem sitting in a chair and letting my heart do something it is already doing anyway—pumping blood.  Now that is my kind of charitable work right there.  If there is a way that I can help those in need while at the same time take a nap, sign me up. 

So it starts off by me showing up and getting some literature.  The receptionist gives me a number (a laminated square with a number 35 on it) and then some pamphlet about mad cow disease or something.  I always say that I read the pamphlet but really I am just watching the flat-screen television that some organization donated to the blood services place.  Hey, here is an idea: if you want us to read the depressing pamphlet about mad cows or whatever the disease is called, then turn off Chef Ramsay yelling at a paroled convict who is trying to make a salad!  You just can’t compete with entertainment like that.

Even though I made an appointment, I have to wait for my name to be called for two or possibly three minutes.  Luckily, I pass the time by taking a complimentary can of Coke, popping the top and just guzzling that bad boy down.  Not only is this charitable endeavor not costing me any money, but after the can of soda, I figure I’m up about sixty to seventy cents right there. 

I get up to the little medical station and the lady asks me which finger I want to get poked with a needle.  They do this to test for iron.  The only other idea I have if that they are testing to see if I can hold up a finger.  If I start taking off a shoe, maybe I can disqualified right there.  Anyway, the lady waits patiently as I examine my two "pointy" fingers and ultimately I pick the right one.  (I don't know why and I start second-guessing it immediately). 

I figure that if I can make it out of my chair and over to the finger-poking station without fainting, chances are pretty good that I am ready to give blood.  They prick my finger and that is the worst part.  It stings for a couple of seconds.  I tough it out by remembering that Ghandi probably never gave blood.  I’m guessing his iron was too low (what with the hunger strikes and stuff).  I’m not saying I am better than Ghandi—we are both awesome in our own way.

The computer reads the blood droplet and it has been determined that my iron levels are “passable”.  I guess licking the inside of the can of beans has finally paid off after all.  The ridicule was worth it. 

Next up: the questionaire.  I sit at a little voting station and they have a pen wtih a big chain attached to it.  They’re handing out Coke and cookies like they can’t get rid of it fast enough, but there are only three pens in the whole building.  I read through the questions—they are simple enough but designed to weed out the suspicious people in our society. 

“Do you feel well today?”  Why, yes I do!  I passed the iron test, I’m full of Coca-Cola and I haven’t vomited even one time today! 

“Have you taken any drugs today?” and the list goes on and on.  It’s pretty common stuff—basically they want to make sure that I am not a walking zombie ready to make someone else ill with my blood.  That makes sense. 

I answer the first half of the questionnaire and do some more sitting, waiting for my name to be called.  All of this so far was the dress-rehearsal.  Next up: the question booth. 

I move to the back room, and the nurse shuts the door.  They take my blood pressure, temperature (orally, you pervert) and my pulse.  I have all three so I pass.  Again, I feel like a champion.  Then the hard questions start. 

They ask me if I have any horrible diseases, or if I have ever taken money or drugs for sex.  The first time they asked me this I was a little taken aback, but it makes sense.  There are no refunds if you get someone else’s blood.   

There is one weird question that I have not figured out as to why they care.  They want to know if I have ever handled monkey fluids.  I’m thinking that if a monkey peed on me, I would definitely remember, and I would definitely not be bragging about it.  I am glad they asked—this is not information that is usually volunteered at parties.  “Hey, check out Gary.  He’s single, available and has a PhD.  Oh, and in 1987 a monkey peed all over his neck while he was in India.  He hates talking about it!” 

After the questions, it is showtime.  I take off my comfortable hoodie and show off my guns (short sleeve T-shirt).  I sit in a massive, oversized sofa chair and some light rock music plays quietly in the background.  I hate needles, so I just tell the nurse-lady that I am afraid of needles.  They are usually pretty good about it and don’t make me feel too wimpy.  These people are usually pretty skilled with the needle—after all, they are poking people literally all day long.  I would hope that by about noon on their first day they would be pretty good at it.  After Jerry the intern screwed up the tenth needle of the day, the boss probably comes over and tells Jerry to go work in accounting or something.  Confused Jerry is told that he is not supposed to make the volunteer donors cry as he digs the needle around in their arm. 

There is a quick poke and then I just sit there for about six minutes.  I use this time to glance around the room at the other people.  I usually see people from literally all walks of life—old people, young people, different races, men, women—the blood services place doesn’t care about any of that.  Just make sure that a monkey hasn’t peed on your neck and you should be fine. 

After six minutes, the little baggy is full of blood and the nurse-lady comes back to yank the needle out of the arm.  I get a little rinky-dinky cotton swab and some cool pink rubber bandage.  I have hairy arms (at least they are hairier than a woman’s arms—I hope) so I request the pink rubber bandage instead of the tape.  This serves two purposes: the first is that it doesn’t hurt when I unwrap the bandage a few hours later, but more importantly, the other reason is that the huge pink rubber bandage is like a neon sign flashing “THIS GUY GAVE BLOOD”.  I feel like a Civil War solider marching through the lunchroom, bravely holding my pink rubber arm on as I weakly ask for free soup.  And crackers.  And another soda.  They also have cookies.  Did I mention that my arm is in a rubber pink sling?  I need the cookie.

If you are interested in donating blood, call 1-888-2DONATE, visit and make sure to have your monkey wear a diaper.