Checking Off #48 This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

March 25, 2013
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Save a life. That was #48 on my bucket list. I didn't have a plan as to how I would accomplish this. I guess I just assumed that I would somehow find myself in a situation where someone needed CPR (which I don't actually know how to do), or push someone out of the way of a speeding car or something. I never considered donating blood. And it wasn't because I was afraid of needles … but the idea of removing my bodily fluids from their rightful home did make me a bit uncomfortable.

When my school's annual blood drive came around, several of my friends were planning to donate. I admired their bravery and generous hearts, but I knew my name would not join theirs on the sign-up list. I felt bad that I, the supposed “tough” girl of the group, couldn't gather enough guts to take part.

Then, thanks to a slight misunderstanding, I found my name staring back at me from the sign-up sheet. What just happened? I remember thinking. I was scared, utterly and deeply scared.

After being told by my friends about the horrors I was sure to encounter in the process of donating blood, and even losing sleep over the matter, I planned on backing out. But as I walked into school the next day, a quote by Eleanor Roosevelt popped into my head: “Do one thing that scares you every day.” I had vowed to live by that saying when I had decided to fill my life with adventure, but it had somehow slipped my mind when this opportunity arose. I turned around, leaving my name on the list and resolving to follow through with donating.

I was shaking before I even got to school that day, partly due to the fact that it was snowing when it was supposed to be spring, but mostly because I was flat out nervous as hell.

I sat on an icy, metal chair in the gym, where the local hospital had all of their bloodsucking equipment set up in an intricate web of tubes and wires, making the place I had spent hours sweating and practicing nearly unrecognizable. The cold from outside stayed with me as I waited for my number to be called, or at least, that was the excuse I told everyone who asked why I was shivering.

“Seven?” Those two syllables were the beginning of the end. I followed a nurse to a small examination room where she recorded my height, weight, and other vital statistics to see if my body would still function if a pint of blood were to be removed. That part wasn't bad. The worst thing was the finger prick, which was nothing like “Elf” made it out to be. Along with the standard physical tests like blood pressure and pulse (which revealed to the nurse just how anxious I was), there were a few simple (but somewhat personal) questions I had to answer about my health.

After about ten minutes of waiting for the results that would determine if I was able to donate (while shamefully hoping they would turn me down and I wouldn't have to be stabbed by mile-long needle), the nurse led me over to a gray table. This is it, I thought. But before I climbed onto the table, I made a quick trip to the restroom. I considered hiding in the bathroom but couldn't stand the thought of being labeled a coward, and eventually I forced myself back to the gym.

The friendly nurse greeted me, and I finally boarded the gray table and laid my arm, veins exposed, on the arm rest. The nurse did a good job distracting me from the preparations that were taking place at my side, but once I caught a glimpse of the needle that would soon penetrate my body, I asked, in my little girl voice that only comes out when I am genuinely frightened, “Can you please hold my hand?” She quickly complied, and moments later I felt the intruder dig deep into my vein. I clenched my toes and bit my lip to stop myself from screaming inappropriate things. “Don't move!” the nurse scolded. Sorry, I thought, in too much terror to verbalize the word.

Good-bye, blood. I didn't watch as it left my body, one, because I probably would have fainted, and two, because it would have made the farewell that much more heartbreaking.

It wasn't too terrifying after the shock of the needle was behind me. I got to play with a red ball that the nurse asked me to squeeze every ten seconds. I fell in love with my little squishy ball and we had a fun five minutes together until a nurse passed by, checked my blood bag, and stripped me of my precious toy. My lip began to quiver, but I had told myself that I wasn't going to cry that day, especially not over something so childish.

I heard my friend talking about soccer, my favorite sport, but I was zoned out, entranced by an orange banner on the wall in front of me. I thought for sure I was going to faint until she tapped my hand and pulled my focus back to the real world.

The more full the bag got, the more I wanted, needed, that needle out of my arm. I couldn't physically feel it in there, but my mind sure was aware of it. It seemed like forever (although I later learned that it only took fifteen minutes) until one of the nurses came over and announced that I was done. Hallelujah! She somehow stopped the blood flow to the bag while, to my discomfort and utter disappointment, leaving the needle in my arm. “Get it out!” I considered yelling at her, but I had kept my cool for that long and wasn't going to lose it so close to the finish line.

I heard a plop and made the mistake of looking down to see a bag of dark red fluid at my feet. My head became woozy and the granola bar I had for breakfast did a cartwheel in my stomach. “Just a little longer,” my friend informed me, squeezing my hand. I couldn't stop looking at the bag that contained blood that was no longer mine, that now hypothetically belonged to someone else. Someone whose life I had just saved.

The nurse continued to do all the routine stuff to finish me up, and as I was contemplating why she was using a grocery scanner to do so, I felt a short sting in my arm. I snapped my head to look at her. “Is it out?” I asked.

“Yup,” she replied. The best syllable I had heard all day. For the first time that morning, I finally relaxed.

I had done it! Check, I thought cheesily.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.

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cowgirl4ever said...
Nov. 27, 2013 at 11:18 am
Very well written and descriptive! That was brave of you to ask someone to hold your hand (me being someone whose sometimes deathly afraid of needles).  Kuddos:)
CassandraD said...
Apr. 3, 2013 at 6:55 pm
I really, really loved it. Such true feelings someone would face who is indeed afraid of needles, or even the sight of blood. This reminded me a bit of the TV series My Name Is Earl. Where the main character has a list of the bad deeds he had done and tries to change that by offering to help those people in any way he can. It's a great show, and your story was fun to read.
JettaWintryThis teenager is a 'regular' and has contributed a lot of work, comments and/or forum posts, and has received many votes and high ratings over a long period of time. This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Apr. 3, 2013 at 6:13 pm
True story? Whether or not, I absolutely LOVEED this! I thought that I might get grossed out by drawing blood, but I actually was really fascinated by your story! To be honest, I had to take a break in the middle of reading this to do homework, and I couldn't stop thinking about this story as I did my homework. x) I couldn't wait to get back to reading it!! I loved this.. Great job.
Madison E. This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. replied...
Apr. 3, 2013 at 6:30 pm
Oh my goodness, thank you so much!!! I actually wrote it in two parts; one before I gave blood and one after, so by stopping in the middle you probably got to experience the anticipation like I did which is kinda neat that it happened to you that way.
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