On Tuesday, as I was working as a tutor in the Learning Lab at ACC, a couple of young men from student services came in to pass out flyers for a blood drive on Thursday. I took the flier and told them that I have never given blood and feel enormously guilty about it. I’ve never had cancer or hepatitis. I don’t take medication. I’m definitely not underweight. I’m just plain chicken. After the men moved on to another group of people, two other tutors sitting near me assured me that it was okay to be too scared to donate, the Red Cross has plenty of blood without mine. One of them pointed out that if I ever needed surgery, I could just go in ahead of time and donate my own blood. I noticed neither of them took a flier.
As I turned back to the short story I was reading on the computer monitor, a voice behind me said, “I’d give blood if they’d let me,” and I realized that one of our regular students, a girl of maybe 18 or 19, had overheard the entire conversation. I’m not sure of her story. Last semester she came to school on crutches, her left foot twisted and useless. When she returned this semester, her foot was gone, amputated below the knee. On Tuesday, she told me that she hadn’t been able to donate her own blood before her surgery and how she’d needed a lot of it. I realized I had to give blood on Thursday. There was no way I could face that girl who’d been through so much pain and say I couldn’t handle a little needle prick.
I went home and told Dave of my brave decision to donate blood. He was unimpressed and responded, “Well, of course, you should give blood.” (He gave regularly until he was diagnosed with melanoma.) Over the next couple of days, there were moments when I thought, “Damn, why did I open my mouth,” but more moments when I thought about how great it was going to feel to overcome one of my greatest fears.
On Thursday morning I reminded Dave that I needed to leave an hour early, so I could give blood before I started my tutoring shift. I loaded a book and a salad in my bag to pass the time while I waited. As I pulled into the ACC parking lot, I looked for the Red Cross van and realized it must be parked on the other side of the building. As I walked through the doors, I thought it odd that more people weren’t milling around the room that housed student services center. Then I saw the sign on the door: “Due to unforeseen circumstances, today’s blood drive has been cancelled.” I didn’t feel relief; I felt disappointment. I’d spent two days psyching myself up for this moment, only to have it slip away.
I went upstairs to our little break room, pulled out my lunch, my book, and my phone. I texted Dave to tell him of my disappointment. He texted back, “Just go to the blood and tissue center to do it.” A knot of fear rose to my throat. I’m not off the hook.