The bleeding edge

I donated blood recently. What makes this particular instance notable is that I learned first-hand why they put a tarp down on the floor in the donation area.

I knew things weren’t going to go well when I saw that the technician was having a really difficult time trying to find where to stick the needle. As in, spent a good minute working on that problem. I’ve donated many times before, but that’s the first time I ever witnessed that level of effort being exerted to find the target. So, either the physiology of my arm radically changed since the last time I donated, or the technician who was going to stick me wasn’t very good.

Given that I generally try to avoid radiological sources, and I haven’t wandered into any Level 4 Biohazard labs recently, I was leaning towards the latter. But at that point, what are you going to do?

Now, I readily admit that I am a wuss. I always make sure to look the other way when they do the needle stick, and never look back until they have the thing over it in place. But I haven’t found any good ways to disable my tactile sense, so I still noticed that there was also an unusual amount of activity going on with that needle.

Then I heard the technician call someone else over for help. At that point, in a moment of weakness, curiousity got the better of me.

Now, as an aside, I would like to remind the reader that blood, like IP packets, does not just get piled onto a truck, but travels through a series of tubes. The standard blood donation procedure augments this general paradigm by running a tube from your arm into a bag. And, when you think about it, a bag is nothing more than a fat little tube with one end blocked off. So, if things are going well, your blood should always be in a tube of some sort.

When I looked back at my arm, the first thing I noticed was that a fair amount of blood was in fact not in a tube at all, but had instead gotten spread out one way or another over my arm.

I remarked, “Ooh, that doesn’t look good.”

The technician quickly assured me that everything was under control, and by the way, maybe you would like to look the other way for a little while longer?

Since I didn’t get a look at what happened after that, I’m going to assume that someone competent got the needle properly in place and stopped any further bleeding. Well, any further unintended bleeding, at least. Soon after that I noticed the technician wiping something up off the floor directly below the arm in question.

So, now you know why they put that tarp down.

For the record, the rest of the donation proceeded relatively uneventfully, aside from the technician having to repeatedly adjust the pressure to hit the sweet spot of continued blood flow without the arm going numb. Which was also something I never had happen any other time I donated.

Plus, obviously, I survived, so there is one thing about the whole ordeal that went right.

In retrospect, I’m not sure I want to know the story behind why, during the screening process, that technician donned a face mask clearly labeled “Splatter Shield” when doing the needle stick for the iron test. You know, where they have to squeeze your finger to coax out a couple drops of blood to fill a pipette via capillary action? I mean, how high does one’s blood pressure need to be to make that precaution necessary?