I went to give blood again last week. It’s been a while, and although one of the reasons I hadn’t gone for so long was because I was pretty sick for a while, it’s been bugging me.
They were doing a bit of a drive so when I got there it was quite busy, but I stood in the queue, let them prick my fingers (twice because they’re trying out a new machine), filled in my form and then took a seat.
During this whole process, the next donor to arrive was a man who made my skin crawl. Since he walked in the door, right up until this very moment, I’ve been trying to work out exactly what it was about him that gave me the grills. I usually try very hard to be kind and accepting of all people. But somehow, seeing as how we were in the blood clinic, I found myself fighting the urge to ask someone to have him removed.
I know. Hectic.
He must have been in his late 30s or early 40s, but then he appeared to be the kind of person who sleeps outdoors on occasion, so he could have been younger. His clothes were dirty, he was wearing grubby white Crocs and his hair was matted. His eyes were droopy slits and his face didn’t seem capable of holding any one expression. Oh, and he had this tatty little grey beard ties up in a bundle with an elastic band.
When he spoke to the sister at the desk he sound completely wasted. Drunk, high, completely bonkers – all three perhaps. Even she did a double take. And while the other sister read my iron levels I overheard the nurse ask him “Are you tired today sir?” When he said no and asked (slurred) why she said “Because you sound exhausted.”
His reply was completely unintelligible. There is no way he was sober.
It freaked me out. Why? Because he was there to give his blood away to other people. Blood that is teeming with goodness knows what. I know, my reaction was probably unfair. I was jumping to conclusions. But seriously, he looked and sounded like a person whose blood was so far on the other end of the clean spectrum.
I am so glad I took that tour of the labs that all the blood is sent to. Because I could sit there quietly and give my donation knowing that every single drop would be sent through a myriad machine and tests looking for any impurities. And that even the slightest alert would result in the donation being destroyed.
So yes, I was freaked out. By the man and by my own reaction to him.
I find myself left wondering what would have been the best course of action: To turn the man away at the door denying him the opportunity to donate what could have been perfectly good blood, or to let him donate and see what the tests pick up.
While I realize that the way they handled it was kinder, I also can’t ignore the fact that donating blood isn’t like making a cup of tea for an old lady, or giving your old clothes to a shelter – it’s far more vital than that – it really IS a matter of life and death. And I wonder if there’s space to worry about hurting people’s feelings.