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Reversible Errors

Bloodletting at the Red Cross
Wednesday, October 28th, 2009

Time was that I regularly donated blood.  Before law school, I was one of those guys who was donating every 45 (or so) days.  Even during the first year of law school, I participated in several blood drives.  But then, during the summer of 2008, I went and got a tattoo.  With regard to the Red Cross here in the District, that disqualifies you from donating for the next twelve months.  And so there I sat.  Disqualified.

Until this past July!  On or about July 6, 2009, I passed the one-year bar on donating blood.  To mark this occasion, I received calls from the Red Cross three times a day.  These calls arrived at inopportune times, came from an "UNAVAILABLE" number, and never left messages.  This pattern continued on a regular basis until I finally broke down and answered, which was on or about October 10.  I am only slightly exaggerating about the three times a day thing.  During this time frame, there were, admittedly, times when I could have answered, but it got to a point where I wasn't answering when I could have on principle.  On or about October 10 it dawned on me that, just perhaps, there wasn't really any principle behind my own private standoff, and so I answered.  Soon, I was scheduled to donate.

And so it came to pass that I arrived at the E Street donation center this past Thursday.  Sadly, no one was manning the reception desk in the donors' area, but after a few minutes' wait, the necessary receptionist materialized.  I was in a bit of a hurry, so I pulled a few deft maneuvers that ensured I would be first in line: I stood up and walked to the reception desk before anyone else who was waiting did so.  Truly, I am a leader.

After securing my spot as the first donor of the afternoon, I was ushered into a small office for the initial testing.  Acoustically, this office was acceptable.  Visually, it was also acceptable-it looked like a doctor's office, and a clean one at that.  I was attended by a nurse whose name I did not catch, but she asked me where she would be able to find a cord for her flat screen TV.  I suggested the local Radio Shack.  I now confess that (1) I'm unsure if the local Radio Shack would deal in flat screen TV accessories and (2) I have only the barest of idea as to where the local Radio Shack is.  It may be on L Street.  The first reader to email me with the proper address will receive a shout out in my next column.

Once the discussion of video accessories was out of the way, it was time for the usual battery of tests.  My pulse was a calm 62.  My iron count was a little higher than normal, which was a good thing-I credit my recent practice of including spinach on my pickle, cheese, and mustard sandwiches.  My blood pressure was also good, I assume, as the nurse nodded approvingly after testing it.  And, finally, the veins in my forearms were sufficiently prominent to elicit the verbal approval of the nurse.  I was ready.  It was time for the bloodletting.

I marched from the testing room to the actual donation area, where the overhead monitors were relating the interesting story of rescuers attempting to extract a horse from a sinkhole, or something to that effect.  I laid down on one of the donation tables.  The attendant began rubbing iodine on my arm.  He prepared the blood donation bag.  He readied the needle.  He stuck it into the inner joint of my elbow.

And then all hell failed to break lose.  As in, I didn't bleed.  The attendant, puzzled, started adjusting the needle, hitting all sorts of nerves I never knew I had in the process.  He muttered several times that he was sure the needle was in my vein, but I just wasn't bleeding.  After some 10 minutes of painful needle adjustments and my refusal to bleed, he let me go and sent me to the canteen, where I enjoyed a Diet Coke and a cookie.  The rescuers were still trying to get the horse out of the sinkhole.

Since that day, I have sported an enormous bruise that refuses to go away, and every now and then feel a sharp pain in my elbow, as though someone were adjusting a needle therein.  Also, because I failed to bleed the minimum amount last Thursday, the daily "UNAVAILABLE" calls have begun again.

I'm getting another tattoo at my earliest convenience.

Even so, out of five pints of whole blood, the Red Cross Donation Center on E Street gets five, because you know damn well it's a good cause.