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The story of my first faint.
Several years ago, in Baltimore, I went to give blood at a local synagogue. It was my second time ever… so I was practically a veteran.
The first time I’d given blood, I was already not a youngster. But I was afraid. Extremely afraid. I didn’t like needles. I didn’t like bleeding. And even when I did a simple blood test, I would get extremely nauseous.
And despite the fact that I felt what I felt, nevertheless I was told by numerous sources that it was purely psychological. Not nearly enough blood was taken to have any real physiological effect. It was all in my mind.
So I decided to confront my fear head on. I took it to the next level, and gave a whole pint of the sucker. And I did so without incident. I went with a friend, and took every precaution I could think of.
I was 100% completely safe… from everything except my own hubris and naiveté.
The second time I gave blood I had already been tried and tested. I was a master. Able to conquer worlds.
I laid down, they took my blood, and a few moments later I stood up. Proud. Confident. Sure that nothing could stop me, not a damn thing.
And then I dropped to my knees, and my head clonked on the floor. Some nice folk helped me up, and I felt like I had next to no control of my entire system.
First Faint… for Now
This was the first time in my life I ever fainted. It was a very uncomfortable feeling. Somewhere between feeling like you’re hopelessly drunk and like you are powerless, being dragged into another dark dimension.
Unfortunately, this would not be the last time I would faint. Later on, in Kansas, my blood sugar would spike. This caused me to dehydrate and ultimately pass out on the floor of my workplace.
I brought my fainting experiences with me all the way to the Holy Land, where I would pass out another two more glorious times. The first was under the influence of heavy drugs post surgery, and the second was from the immense pain after slamming a finger in a car door.
No, my experiences were certainly not for the faint of heart.
But I don’t have a whole lot of surgeries, and even if I had another, I think we got the situation all figured out. I pretty much have my blood sugar under control, which is obviously a very positive thing. And I’m going to really hope to keep my fingers very far from car doors, or any other situation which could bring about severe pain.
But What About?
Where do things get complicated? In the mighty world of giving blood. The original scenario.
I like giving blood. It’s about the nicest, most selfless act you can do. You inconvenience yourself and make yourself uncomfortable for an afternoon, and this simple and quick act can save up to as many as three lives. Seriously, what in the world can you do that’s better than that?
My son and I gave blood four times this past year, the maximum amount permissible in Israel. That’s 24 potential lives the two of us may have saved, in just one year!
And that’s why I keep going. And I’m going to keep going until they tell me that for some medical reason I’m not allowed.
But if I have to be honest: I suck at giving blood.
Here We Go Again
The last time I went, we traveled quite a bit to find the one place that was open. It was pouring outside and we arrived sopping wet. Because of the rain, we were a little late, and we were very fortunate that even though they were closing up shop, with a bit of assertiveness on our part, they took our blood anyway.
Since they were doing us a favor, I didn’t want any further delays, and I skipped going to the restroom. This was my fatal error. That meant for the entire time they were taking my blood, I needed to go, and it was just getting more urgent.
So when things were all finished, and everything had settled down, I figured it couldn’t hurt if I got up and went to the restroom. And boy was I mistaken.
Long story short: My son and some paramedics would later be pulling me off a bathroom floor, and taking care of me for the next hour or so. They discouraged me going anywhere or even moving so long as my blood pressure remained ridiculously low.
And once again, I got to embarrass myself in front of a bunch of people in an extremely preventable scenario.
What I’ve Learned
I learned a lot from all these experiences. At least, I hope I have. First, on days when I’m giving blood, I should eat and drink a ton. This was definitely not the problem this time, but in any case, the body needs a lot of fuel for the ordeal. And it’s not like eating is much of a challenge…
The second lesson is to always go to the bathroom first, regardless of any time constraints. No excuses.
Finally: Just lie there. Don’t get up. Don’t be a hero. And don’t be stupid. There’s no rush whatsoever. You did something good, and for whatever reason, you suck at the next step. Just embrace who you are and your body’s limitations, and don’t risk the possibility of smacking your skull on the floor and getting permanent brain damage. Yes, you’re doing a good deed. But a concussion would certainly dampen the mood.
But there is a big question left over after all of this.
So Where Do I Go From Here?
Some people aren’t great at doing this. Yes, it’s rare that people faint after giving blood, but it definitely happens. I’m not the first, and I won’t be the last. But it is most certainly the vast minority of people this happens to.
The question is: Do I keep doing it?
I know how to lessen the risks. But that doesn’t eliminate the risks. I definitely want to go back. And the idea of potentially saving another three lives is most certainly pulling me toward another visit. However, I’m not going to lie: It’s super concerning, and I don’t want to ever put my wellbeing at risk. There are too many people in the world relying on me.
I’m leaning toward: Keep going, but stay the hell down until I’m 100%. But I waiver. Maybe the good deed is meant for other people who aren’t risking cracking a skull on the floor of a weird truck in the center of town.
What do you think?