Content warning – there will be discussion of blood donation. The section that deals with needles explicitly will bookended with this symbol: ~~//~~ If you have a phobia of needles, when you see the symbol, skip until you see it again and begin reading after it.
I feel as though I have just emerged from a time vortex. I barely remember my name, much less what day it is. I had Thursday through Monday off and I completely threw all my schedules and good intentions to the wind. It was four days of late nights, sleeping in until seven or eight in the morning (thank you, automatic cat feeder), and more D&D planning than was probably healthy. I even binged a TV show one night.
This has made me even more grateful to have a job.
Without my job, I would have gone insane by week two without something to structure my days around. I would have five D&D campaigns going, an twenty extra pounds on my ass from all the stress baking, and an apartment that would swing wildly from slovenly hovel to immaculate, ready-for-the-white-glove-test. Honestly though, if I had been laid off or furloughed I think my sister would have showed up, packed me, Seraphina, and Brazilian Helicopter Pilot into her car and kidnapped us so I to help watch my nephew and cook her lavish meals. There would have been no objections and only one condition: BHP would have to wear nothing but a loincloth and follow me around fanning me with palm leaves. He would do it just for the jokes.
So, besides the horror of having a mini-vacation, it was a good enough week.
Wednesday I strapped on my mask and traveled to Manhattan to donate platelets. A couple weeks ago, BHP and I had a conversation that went something like this:
Me: *looking at my planner* I am thinking about donating platelets.
BHP: Uh huh
Me: *twists mouth* They really need donations and I am a regular donor.
Me: *starting to wibble* But I am considered high risk because of my asthma and it’s a fifty minute train ride both ways…..
Me: I probably shouldn’t donate
BHP: Yes, it would make me feel better if you stayed home.
Two weeks and one unsolicited phone call from New York Blood Center telling me about the urgent need for donors later…
Me: I am donating platelets!!!
BHP: *headdesk over and over and over again*
Humor aside, BHP supports my donating and is looking forward to one day becoming a donor himself, but his work schedule has not been very flexible lately and, well, we are in the middle of a pandemic. I am the part of the couple who sometimes forgets their mask and has to climb back up four flights of stairs when I remember just as soon as I reach the sidewalk. BHP is the one who had to be talked out of hazmat suits.
The trip into Manhattan was uneventful. Despite the fact that it was getting close to the time that would usually be considered rush hour, the train’s occupancy-levels were at pre-COVID 9:30-10:00 p.m. on a weeknight level. This meant I easily found a seat a suitable distance away from other people. An added bonus was that the train still had the lingering smell of disinfectant, which was very reassuring to me. Most people wore masks and I did feel safe for the most part, if not a little anxious.
I arrived at the blood center early, per my usual M.O., and found four people already ahead of me standing on social distance circles that had been put on the floor by the blood center. There were no more approved circles to queue up in so I picked a spot about six feet behind the last person in line and began the wait. I knew it was going to take a while because even on a good day pre-COVID it took a miracle to be seen on time.
Eventually someone came out and distributed disposable thermometers so we could to an initial temperature check. I felt very conflicted. I had to take my mask off to place the thermometer and then I felt exposed, but I couldn’t really put the mask on over the thermometer because wouldn’t that negate the point? In the end I just put the mask back on with the thermometer poking out the top. I looked ridiculous, but I passed the temperature check.
Once space became available, I was allowed inside the center and took a seat to fill out the questionnaire. Shhh, don’t tell anyone, but I don’t remember the last time I actually read the reading materials cover-to-cover. All I do is answer the questions and reference the height table because I always forget that five feet equals sixty inches, which means I am 62 inches tall. No, we are not going to go into the whole 5’3″ vs. 5’2″ debacle.
Because I was donating platelets, I got bumped to the head of the on-boarding line. This is because of how long it takes to donate platelets. The staff do not want to be at work until midnight, so they put donors like myself in the express line. My technician was very nice and she easily handled retaking my temperature and checking my pulse, blood pressure, and iron count. It actually wasn’t until recently that I realized you could fail the pulse test. A few donations ago, I arrived at the center hot and not well hydrated, so my pulse was racing. They made me take a fifteen minute time out before retaking it and passing me.
This time I, thankfully, passed all the tests and then stood around awkwardly until a bed opened up. I was directed to the open bed and, after a quick bathroom break, laid down and prepared myself for the question they always, and probably have to, ask, “Have you donated platelets before?” Every time I want to thrust my arm at them and say, “Have you looked at the inside of my elbow?” but I know it’s just routine so I just smile and say, “yes” instead. For context, the veins in my right arm are bigger than those on my left, so when I donate platelets it has to be with my right arm because donating platelets requires a bigger gauge needle. As a result, I have an area about the size of a dime on the inside of my right elbow that has almost a dozen of dimple-like scars. The good news is that no needle in a doctor’s office comes close to the gauge of a blood/platelet donation needle so having blood drawn for routine tests barely hurts.
The phlebotomist inserted the needle and the machine started drawing my blood, spinning it out, and then returning everything but the platelets to me. Pretty quickly my lips and other extremities got tingly from the anticoagulant that they have to add to stop the blood from clotting and clogging up the machine. Once I settle into the rhythm of squeezing the ball on the intake and relaxing on the return, it was only 101 minutes until I finished. Thankfully, modern technology allows for people to donate platelets using only one arm. It used to be that you had to have two needles, one in each arm. I can’t imagine laying there with both arms out of commission and nothing to do.
The bad news is that I am too short to ever be able to do a double red donation and I have a fairly common blood type. Don’t get me wrong, my blood and platelets are needed, but I often wish I had one of the rarer blood types so my donations would be more helpful or that I was tall enough to do double reds.
And now your reward for surviving all the gross stuff.
Sometime during the first year or so of dating Brazilian Helicopter Pilot, I got the hiccups. Now, some people get pissed when they get the hiccups, not me. I can usually breathe them away or forget about them and don’t see the need to get upset or mad. Hiccups are my body’s way of telling me to slow down, I very rarely listen to its warnings and I have much pettier shit to get mad about. Also, I have a badass sister who taught me a trick that gets rid of hiccups 90% of the time.
It was a nice spring or summer day and BHP and I were walking around midtown Manhattan. We might have been holding hands. I was probably talking about something because I do most of the talking in our relationship. And then, I started to hiccup. I am sure I ignored them and kept prattling on, but when I paused for breath:
“Was that a hiccup?” BHP asked, casually.
“Mmhm,” I imagine I responded, so young and naive and unaware of what fresh horror to which I was dooming myself.
We were approaching an intersection. The crosswalk’s signal was flashing the red hand, letting people know to finish crossing, but not to start. As we were not in a hurry, we did not rush to get across the street before it changed. We reached the intersection and came to a stop just as the sign switched over to the solid red hand. I assume I was still talking and looking at BHP. Suddenly, BHP grabbed me and yelled:
“OH MY GOD WHAT IS THAT!?!”
I, of course, screamed and whipped my head around to try and see what was wrong. I have average (at best) situational awareness, so there was a chance something horrible was happening and I hadn’t noticed.
I didn’t see anything. I did notice a small group of people that looked like tourists sprint across the street away from us, ignoring the do not cross sign and taking their lives into their hands with NYC traffic. There did not appear to be anything near us that would cause that. All of the other New Yorkers around us, did the side-step “I am going to not engage with the crazy people” shuffle. My heart was racing, my breathing was ragged, and my thoughts were panicked. But the conclusion was obvious, there was nothing wrong, no danger, and definitely no reason to be yelling like that.
“What the fuck!?” I screeched at BHP.
He smiled at me. “Your hiccups are gone. You’re welcome.”
I do believe in that moment I wanted to kill him.
This incident so thoroughly traumatized my body that for a full year I could not physically hiccup in front of BHP. For two years after that, I would get one hiccup and BHP would look at me, raise an eyebrow and ask:
“Was that a hiccup?”
And my body would just shut that shit down.
I could feel them in the back of my throat, phantom hiccups, too scared to actually show themselves for fear of what BHP would do to me.
Well, last week I was in the kitchen, charging my phone and playing Candy Crush and I got the hiccups. BHP was in the living room area of the apartment playing Witcher III so I didn’t think anything of it. I was minding my own business, swiping candies around, crushing them mercilessly, and not paying attention. It got quiet in the living room, and then I heard:
“Was that a hiccup?”
I honest to God got the fear giggles. You know, when you’re anxious or nervous and you can’t stop giggling or laughing? Automatic fucking response as this asshole comes creeping around the fridge. He is a six foot two teddy bear and my diaphragm is terrified of him on a cellular level. My hiccups were gone. Again.
This is the reason we made BHP his own white card in Cards Against Humanity. It reads “BHP’s cure for the hiccups (lifetime guarantee).” My white card is: Michelle’s grave indecision.
Please donate blood, platelets, or plasma if you can and stay safe!!