Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Conquering fears by giving of yourself, literally

Note: This column appears in the 11/13 issue of The Glendale Star, and the 11/14 issue of the Peoria Times

Like anybody else, I have fears. I’m not a big fan of flying, for example. In fact, I will not fly by myself. When my wife was studying at NAU a few years ago and I came to visit her from New Jersey, I actually took the train. I spent five days in all on the train and 45 minutes visiting my wife. But it cured my fear of flying, so that was good. I am also scared of the clown from the Stephen King movie “IT.” If you have seen that movie, then you are nodding your head. Another thing that scares me is death. Death is a biggie.

Luckily, for whatever reason, I never developed a fear of needles. This is probably due to the fact that my mom is a nurse, and she was able to use me as a human pincushion when I was a kid and she was working her way through nursing school; my arm in her right hand, textbook in her left hand, needle in her mouth. It never bothered me. The fact that I do not fear needles enables me to rather easily do something that I think is very important: give blood.

Of course, the act of giving blood is not without its other implied fears. I just recently started to donate, even though for years I knew that giving blood is one of the easiest things a person could do. This is because I had always feared that one day I would donate blood, and two weeks later I would get this message on my voice mail:

Hello Mr. Kenny. Thank you for donating blood to United Blood Services. Unfortunately, we cannot use your blood. Because you have Dengue fever. Have a nice weekend.

This irrational fear was solved when my wife and I applied for new life insurance, and I was forced, against my will, to submit a blood sample. Thankfully, everything checked out okay. So when my boss encouraged our entire office to donate blood last year during the holidays, I was ready.

There was a pretty lengthy interview process beforehand, which included many personal questions, such as: Have you ever had relations with a goat in the Dominican Republic? If you think that was a joke, then you have never donated blood before.

The actual act of giving blood was surprisingly quick and easy. For one thing, I have an abnormally large and accessible vein in my left arm. As far as taking a needle in that vein, there is a 93% margin of error. Every time I have ever had to get stuck with a needle, the nurses call each other over and marvel at this vein: Hey Margie, get a look at this! I imagine myself as the Bigfoot of the medical profession, and only those who have actually stuck me believe that I exist. When I gave blood a few months ago, the head technician decided that my arm would be the perfect practice for one of their new students. “Bring it on,” I said. I was used to that.

I’ve only donated now several times, but I feel like a veteran of the process. And here’s the thing about donating blood: it takes a matter of minutes to do, and afterwards you’re sitting there eating free cookies and drinking from a juice box and everyone is calling you a hero. It’s pretty awesome.

But hey, maybe you’re scared of needles. Or maybe it’s a different fear. One way to think about it is this: Someday, somewhere, someone will be staring his or her greatest fear right in the face. And your donation can save their life. That should eliminate your fears quicker than, say, a five-day long train ride.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Mike...that was great! As a blood donor myself (brag, brag) everything you wrote is so true. By the way, the first time I donated it was at school and I passed out in front of the kids who giving out the cookies and juice.