I never gave much thought to giving blood until my wife, who had done it for many years, was finding that she was being rejected because of a lack of iron. I tagged along one night so she could initiate me in the procedure. My blood proved to be iron rich so I was 'in' and so began many years of frequent visits to the Red Cross Blood Donor Clinic.
I felt I was providing a valuable service for my fellow man and did not mind the wait times and the all the annoying questions each and every time. Things improved when they adopted a system of appointments and providing you came on time, the wait was more tolerable. The questions regarding Africa and drug use were still annoying but the good natured nurses went along with my sense of humour about it and in no time I would be lying on the cot being prepped for the blood letting.
Needles have never bothered me, nor the sight of blood, so I guess you could say that I was a natural. In fact, I usually felt rather invigorated after the pint of blood was taken from my body and upon inquiring about it, found that there were quite a few folks who felt the same. One would think the opposite would be true. I didn't really want the cookie and juice after the procedure, but the nurse on 'post op' duty insisted.
And so it was another routine clinic as I lay on the cot, waiting for the nurse to poke me. I had got to know many of them in a casual sort of way, and noticed that the gal that night was new. I commented about it and she did admit that it was her first time. I should have been nervous, but there was a trainer right there beside her. It was reassuring and I thought nothing of it. After rubbing my arm with the disinfectant for a very long time, she eventually poised the needle over my inner elbow, made her decision as to where the needle should go, and pierced me. No problem.
Until I heard her exclaim, "Oh my God. Look how fast the blood is coming." Just as her trainer was about to check the flow, the rookie exclaimed again, " Oh my God, and look how red it is."
Being a veteran blood donor, I thought nothing of it except that if it was coming fast, I would be out of there sooner. So I asked her, "What colour is it supposed to be, blue?" Nothing was said except that the trainer sent her to get the shift supervisor. I knew that arterial blood, being more oxygenated, was a brighter red that the blood from the vein, where it was supposed to be coming from.
Only then did it dawn on me that the needle had pierced an artery instead of a vein and that something like that was a no-no. I was not worried as the building was full of qualified nurses and they would know what to do. I was wrong.
The supervisor came over and looked for about 30 seconds, said everything was fine, and walked away, speaking softly to the trainer. At that point the collection bag was full to the brim, record time, I was told. They pulled the needle out and gave me the usual cotton swab to hold on the pin prick, applying pressure for about 5 minutes. The blood only stopped as long as there was pressure. Five minutes soon turned to twenty and eventually the bleeding stopped. They let me go, finally, and I commented that I had donated blood many times and had never had pain after the fact. There was a throbbing in my inner arm that I had never felt before.
I took my cookie and juice and went home with the instructions, as usual, that if any bruising or soreness occurred, to let them know. The phone number was on my donor card. Still, I was not concerned. Later that evening, when the throbbing had not subsided, I rolled up my sleeve and was surprised to see a bruise about the size of a twoonie on arm. I had had that one other time before and by morning it had been almost gone, or at least had not grown. By bedtime, it had grown and I thought I would make the phone call then instead of in the middle of the night, if need be. There was no concern on the other end of the line, only the suggestion that if the bruising had not stopped growing by morning, I should call again.
I could not sleep much that night because of the throbbing in my arm. By morning, it became quite alarming how much pain there was and how purple my arm had become. The stiffness and ache had travelled up my arm and it was difficult lifting my hand over my head to get my shirt on. I went to a walk-in clinic at 8 am.
I gingerly remove my shirt and showed the arm to the Doctor.
" What on earth happened to you?"
" I gave blood last night, at the clinic. I think they tore the back of the artery and it is bleeding into my arm."
He looked hard and exclaimed that he had never seen anything like it. Then he told me what they should have done when they first pierced the artery. The needle should have been withdrawn, the arm should have been held high over my head, and ice should have been applied immediately.
At this point there was nothing to do but wait it out.
The next few days were agony and I could not work. I did not sleep for 3 nights and although the bruise, now covering the entire arm right into my arm pit, had finally stopped growing, it was little comfort. I finally went to work to finish a job I had started several days ago, but that evening, I realised I would not be working for a while again. It did indeed take one week of recovery time.
Forty days later, I got a call from the friendly donor appointment lady asking if she could book me in for another donation. I was, after all, a steady and loyal customer. I told her I didn't think I would be giving any more blood. Naturally, she wanted to know why. Steady donors are difficult to find and she was not going to let me go that easy. I then told her about the incident and said I was sorry, but I did not have the confidence to return, I simply could not afford to ever let that happen again, not only because of the lost time, but because of the pain.
A few days later, I got another call from the Red Cross, and this time it was from Toronto headquarters. It was a very professional, articulate and sympathetic woman I talked to that morning. She was, or at least sounded like she was, very concerned and understanding. When I told her I saw a doctor, who was shocked, and who told me what should have been done, her voice took on an extra conciliatory tone. I suddenly realised that she was trying to placate me so I would not be suing the Red Cross. She assured me that the offending nurse had been disciplined and heads would roll. I assured her that I did not want that to happen. All I wanted was for the nurses to be trained properly so this would not happen to somebody else, and if it did, that they would do the right thing and admit that they made a mistake and take the appropriate measures to prevent the internal bleeding. I told her I had pictures of my arm. There was a moment of silence and then she really got friendly. By now I was playing with her because I knew she was very nervous.
After a one hour conversation, I made a deal with her. I would completely drop the matter if they promised to never call me for donating blood, ever again. She sounded relieved, but still unbelieving. She then went into a long song and dance about how much she appreciated the times I did give and again, how sorry she was, that she understood, and that she, personally, would make sure that my name was taken off the list. I never heard from the Red Cross again.
I still have my 25 pint donor lapel pin, but only as a reminder that some good came of it for somebody else. And that last pint was very good!