Ross Murray's Border Report
Ross Murray
Ross Murray
is editor and publisher of the Stanstead Journal.
Posted 06.11.01
Stanstead, Quebec


No sympathy for the fainter

Fine. I got a little woozy. But I did not pass out. My eyes did roll briefly - briefly! - into the back of my head and my face did turn the same shade as the surgical gloves the nurse was wearing but I did not flop, plop, heave, or spaz. And I gave my pint, dammit! I don't care what anyone tells you.

If you faint from heat exhaustion, people rush to soothe you with kind words and ice cubes. If you eat a bad burritto and turn green in your office cubicle, your co-workers sympathetically send you home and promise to pick up the slack. Get a little weak in the knees giving a pint of blood, however, and suddenly you become the matinee floor-show for your fellow donors.

"Taking a little nap, there, Ross?" said one, grinning widely as I lay on the stretcher with a clammy paper towel on my forehead.

"Ooo, where's my camera?" said another. "This picture's going in The Journal!"

I smiled gamely, trying to maintain some good humor and dignity. But again, I had a paper towel on my forehead. One does not associate dignity with damp Handi-Wipe headgear.

I had felt faint giving blood once before. Turns out I hadn't eaten enough that day. I learned my lesson. But whenever I have given blood since then, one of the local volunteers inevitably yells out, "Look out! He's a fainter!"

"One time!" I always defiantly reply. "I faint one time and I'm branded for life!"

As soon as I arrived at the blood clinic at Sunnyside last week, I scarfed down a couple of doughnuts just to top off my stomach. Feeling good, I thought. A little tired, maybe, but groovin'. Bit of small talk about rusty needles, unprotected sex with mad cows, and the S&M proclivities of the nurses. All systems go. But what was that slight butterfly in my stomach. Just nerves.

I went through the maze of paperwork and tests - blood pressure fine, iron good - and was led out to a stretcher.

If this were a movie, it would be at this point where there would be an echoey voice-over saying, "Look out! He's a fainter... fainter... fainter..."

Then the nurse stuck me. Ow! It really hurt. "Ow!" I said. I said it out loud. I'm at a point in my life where I see no reason to keep a stiff upper lip. If something hurts, I say "Ow!" Usually, saying "ow!" gets the person doing the "ow"-ing to undo the "ow." But the nurse didn't react.

The needle was really painful. Pain equals adrenaline. Adrenaline equals heart beating. And my heart started racing. Next thing I knew, I was going from "ow" to "woosh" as the room started to get swirly all around me.

"You can do this!" I thought to myself. "This is just like stopping the bed from spinning that night you drank tequila and thought you were Ricky Martin."

I tapped my foot, counted to 100, squeezed my fist to more quickly pump the blood - life-giving fluid that was draining out of me - but that only made the needle lodged in my arm more painful. Concentrate, I thought. Trying not to faint, I read the little card the nurse had given me over and over again. I will now never forget that the next time I can give blood is July 25.

Somehow I got it into my head that the most important thing was for me to give this full pint of blood. Perhaps its because I don't know what they do with the half-pints and dribbles of the fainters who don't quite make it. Do they throw that blood away? God knows I hate waste. If they were going to get my blood, they were going to get all of it and they were going to use it!

Of course, the more I gave, the worse I felt. And then: "Beep." I was done. I made it! There were just the few vials the nurse had to draw off for testing.

"Are you okay?" she said.

"I don't think so," I said. And before I knew it, they were laying me down.

"Did... did you get enough?" I asked.

"Oh yes, I'll draw the last tubes off what you gave," said the nurse. She was a nice nurse. A different nurse. Not the "ow"-y S&M nurse.

So there. I gave my pint. You can put a photograph of my pasty, weak-smiling, paper-towel-covered face in the paper if you want, but this fainter gave blood last Wednesday. And I'll be back. You can catch me there same time next year. Hope you're strong enough.