The Life of Bon: Pumping plasma

Friday, October 21, 2011

Pumping plasma

I didn't sleep too well last night.

I tossed and turned, I woke up every twenty minutes and looked at the clock to check the time.  Was it 9:00 yet?  Should I just get up now?  Toss.  Turn.  Bad dream.  Toss.  Check clock.  Toss. Turn.

Finally, at 8:00 I got up.  I'm on fall break, so techinically I should be sleeping in until 10:00 and not feeling a drop of guilt for it.  But I just couldn't.  I got up and drank a bunch of water and scooped myself a bowl of ice cream.  (I realize at some point in my life, my body will force me to change my eating habits.  Fortunately, that time has not yet come.)

Hubs got up about 9:00.  "Drink some water!" was the first thing I said to his sleepy- confused face.  "You have to be hydrated.  And you need to eat something too!"

Today was the day.
The day to donate plasma.

I've never done this before.  My brother, Reed, practically got himself through college by giving plasma twice a week.   Hubs' friend has donated over 70 times.  You get anywhere from $30-50 every time you donate and after the first time it only take 60-90 minutes to donate.  Not a bad hourly job. 

You see, high school English teachers aren't making as much as they should now days and Hubs quit at the Olive Garden because his schedule was too busy, so we be needing a little extra funds.  Originally, I was going to make Hubs donate on his own because well... I'm just a little girl afraid of big needles.  I told him I'd offer encouragement, go with him, you know, the whole supportive spouse shiz.  But then I figured as long as I was there, I might as well cowboy up, donate some plasma, and make a buck or two.

We arrived at the plasma center four minutes late.  It was my fault.  Maybe if we got there late they wouldn't let us donate?  I was hopeful. 

No such luck.  You're a little late?  No problem.

"Bonnie, we're going to need you to come with us," a stern man said.  I read his nametag.  Hugh.
He led me to the room where people were donating their plasma.  There were a lot of big machines.  And a lot of big needles.

"Brian!  I need a check on this girl!  I don't think she can donate, you can hardly even see her veins."
A long haired man with a clear face mask strutted over to me.

"Pump." He commanded.
"Excuse me?"  I was lost.
"Pump." He repeated.
"I don't..."
"Lady, pump your arm.  Squeeze your fist."
"Oh, okay..."
I did so.  People at the plasma center don't have time for games, you know.
I pumped.  Squeeze.  Release.  Squeeze.  Release.
Brian stared at my arm.  "We're not going to be able to use your right arm at all.  I can't even see a vein.  Left arm."
"Excuse me?"
"Pump your left arm."
"Oh."  I did so.  He felt around for a vein.
Finally he came to a conclusion.
"There's a small vein here that I can work with.  She's good."
And that was that.  First test- passed.  

Next, Hugh took me to a room for some questions. 
"Sit down in the red chair in the corner," Hugh commanded.
I sat down.
"Is that a red chair in the corner?"
I looked at the chair I was sitting in.  It was black.  In the middle of the room.
"My bad..."  I moved to the correct chair.  These people don't let you get away with much!
Hugh gave me a big book.  "Read every word in here."
I began reading.
Then I saw Hubs walk in, and a lady took him to the other side of the room.  I started watching Hubs.  I can get quite distracted by him you know.
"Are you reading?"  Hugh was staring at me.
"Oh... I'm sorry..."
Suddenly I felt like one of the students in my classroom.
I looked down at the binder, but I wasn't reading it.  I was just staring at the words on the page, so take that, Hugh!  

Hugh began to fire questions at me. No, I have never lived in the Congo since 1977; No, I have never injected myself with illegal drugs; No, I have not been pregnant in the past six months; No, I have never witnessed an ape murder in France... just making sure you're still with me, folks.

"Do you have any allergies?" Hugh asked.
I've always gotten allergies in the spring and fall, but what if that makes me ineligible to donate?  The allergies are mild enough, I better just keep mum.
"No," I answered.
"Never in your life have you had an allergy to anything?"  Wow.  Hugh was good.
"Well... in high school I used to get allergies in the spring..."
"And you haven't had any allergies since high school?  None at all?  They just magically disappeared?"  It was like he was drilling into my soul.
I don't lie well under pressure.
"I still get them sometimes now.  In the fall and spring."
"Okay, I'm going to write down seasonal allergies on here.  And tell the truth from now on.  It's important."
I felt dumb.  I wanted to leave.  Hubs was passing his interview with flying colors.  I could see him laughing with his interviewer on the other side of the room. I always get stuck with the meanies.
"Did you have a healthy meal before you came in this morning?" Hugh drilled.
"What exactly did you eat?"
"A piece of toast and a bowl of ice cream with peaches."
"And you think that is healthy?"
"Well I guess it's all relative."
"That's not healthy.  Ice cream isn't healthy."  Now Hugh was giving me honesty lessons and nutrition lessons.
"After your screening, you need to come in here and grab one of these cup of noodles and eat it."
"Yes, sir."
"You are dismissed."
I couldn't get out of there fast enough.  I bolted from the question room.

I waited in the lobby with Hubs for the next part of the ordeal.  I was beginning to seriously consider my decision to donate.  Was this really worth $40?  "Bonnie.  We are ready for your screening.  Go to door #3,"  they announced.

I obeyed.  I was learning a thing or two about listening around this place, I can tell you that much.  I entered Room 3 to see Hugh sitting at the desk.  Damn.  I thought my time with him was over.

Hubs got called, and I could hear him entering the room next to mine.  He got the nice lady.  Once again.  I could hear them laughing.  Joking.  They seemed to be getting along quite swimmingly.  Hugh didn't even look at me. 
"Put out your finger."  He ordered.  I obeyed.  He didn't seem to give a hoot that I was nervous as all get out to give my plasma. 
"Ouch!" I screamed.  Hugh had violenty stabbed my finger with a needle.  I was beginning to think we got joy out of watching my suffer.
"What did you expect?" he asked.
He drew a bit of my blood, put it in a weird testy thingy (sorry, but I can really offer no better description than that) and then asked me a series of questions.  The exact same questions he had already asked me.  I answered.  Then he tested my blood.  Hydration level- check, protein levels- check, sexy level- check.  I was good to go.

Next came the physical.
I entered the phsyical room to see a woman staring back at me.  I breathed a sigh of relief.  It appeared that Hugh would not be continuing with me on the journey.
The lady asked a bunch of questions: 
What surgeries have you had?  What year?  How long was recovery time?  What prescriptions are you on?  What pills have you taken within the past 30 days?  Etc. Etc. 
I answered them all truthfully and faithfully, Hugh had taught me well, afterall. 
"Okay, now I am going to do an exam on your body, there will have to be some bare skin contact," the lady warned me. 
"Alright, fine, that's no problem."  Because seriously- I have no problem with that. 

"Lift up your shirt, I need to place this just below your left breast."
I lifted my shirt up all the way, flashing the innocent victim.
"Oh, no, no, I just need the area right below your left breast." 
The lady was turning red.
"Oh, I'm sorry, I must have misheard you."

Welp, I bet that lady got more than she bargained for when she came into work this morning.

I wasn't trying to be a pervert.  I honestly thought that that was what I was supposed to do.  Just trying to not get into trouble around this Nazi place.

After I passed the physical, it was time to wait in line with everyone else to give my plasma.  Hubs was in line right beside me, holding my hand, telling me not to worry, everything was going to be just fine.
"That's easy for you to say!  You've had nice people helping you all morning!"  I wasn't resentful at all.

"Bonnie."  They called.
I gulped.
I kissed Hubs goodbye (this might be the end, afterall.)
I walked into the room with the big machines that suck your blood.

A man named Sam helped me get settled in a big chair. 
"Let's see here," he said, looking at my chart. "Looks like we can't take from your right arm, only your left arm is suitable." 
"Yes, sir." 
I was sweating.
"Okay, don't worry, you're almost done here.  You've done great so far.  This is only going to take about thirty minutes, and then you'll be out of here." 
I found Sam to be strangely comforting.
"I know it's already been a long day, you had to answer a bunch of weird questions about Africa, someone stabbed your finger with a needle..."
I laughed.  Not bad, Sam, not bad.  He was doing almost as good a job as making me feel better as Hubs!
"Pump," he commanded. 
No problem, I had already done this before!  I pumped.  Squeeze.  Release.  Squeeze.  Release. 
Sam talked to me while I pumped.  "This isn't my first time sticking a needle in someone's arm," he told me, "In fact I've done it more than 7,000 times."
Wow.  Sam was doing a dang good job at making me feel safe.  You can't argue with a man with 7,000 sticks under his belt can you?
Sam apparently couldn't find my vein that Long-Hair-Brian had spotted two hours ago.
"Okay, let's try your right arm."
I considered telling him that Brian had already deemed my right arm completely unusable, but I decided to just let him figure it out the hard way.

"Okay, pump..."
I pumped.  Squeeze.  Release.  Squeeze.  Release.
No vein was showing itself.
"Hmm... this might be a little hard," said Sam.

He left.
I did not know where he went.
I was nervous.
Then he came back.
With Brian.

"This is the best guy we have, so he's going to stick your arm.  Your veins are so small that they require someone with more experitse.
"More expertise than 7,000 sticks?!?"
Sam laughed.  "Don't be nervous, you're going to be fine."

Brian switched back over to the left arm.  "The right arm is completely unusable." He echoed his words from two hours earlier, "We'll have to make a vein from her left arm work."
"Pump" he ordered me.
I was becoming quite good at pumping by now, so this part came easy.  Squeeze.  Release.  Squeeze.  Release.
"I might have made a mistake passing her through to give plasma," Brian told Sam, "I thought I could get the needle in the vein, maybe I was being too confident..."

I kept squeezing.
Brian wasn't making me feel too comfortable about this.

"Okay, Bonnie, we're going to go for it.  I promise you I would not try this if I wasn't certain that we could do it.  I have gotten plasma from smaller veins before, and you're going to be fine.  Now look the other way and talk to Sam."

I looked the other way.  Sam had a big goofy grin on his face.  "I notice you've got some books in your lap," Sam said, "I used to own a used book store..."  Wow.  Sam nailed the conversation topic.  He successfully got my mind off the needle. 

If I had two pieces of advice for the plasma center, it would be this: 
Fire Hugh. 
Give Sam a raise.

Prick.  Prick.  Ouch.  The needle was going in.
Prick.  Prick.  It was going in again.  They were moving it around.
It doesn't feel that good getting a huge needle stuck in a small vein.

"Okay, Bonnie, your ordeal here today is over."
"You got it in?!?!"  I was elated.  This guy really was the best sticker in the place!

"No... I thought I could get that needle in, but as soon as I tried to put the needle in, the vein ripped.  I could keep trying, but your best vein already ripped and it is likely that would keep happening if we tried with your other ones.  Unfortunately, your veins really are too small for needles of this size.  It looks like donating plasma is not for you."

They gave me a little slip of paper, told me I would still get paid for that day, and to wait in the lobby.  I saw Hubs on my way out,  hooked up no problem, his giant vein successfully pumping out all the plasma that center could ever dream of.

I stopped to talk to him.  "It was so sad, Hubs- they tried both my arms for the longest time and they poked around and Sam was cracking jokes and I was---"
"Ma'am get off the floor right now.  We're already busy enough as it is," I was cut off.  A woman worker was glaring at me.  Probably Hugh's girlfriend.
People around here.  They don't give you an inch of leeway.
And I left the floor. 

Don't tell Hubs this, but as I sat in the lobby, waiting for him to finish, watching all the people come in and out of the plasma center, I was secretly relieved.  Very relieved.  I'll face a roomful of bratty sixteen year olds any day before I have to deal with the likes of Hugh and a needle of that size again. 

My veinless arm.  It saved my life.