Something everyone should know about me is that I’d do just about anything for a free t-shirt.
So, when I received an email saying I could donate my plasma in exchange for a $25 Kroger gift card and a t-shirt, I signed up immediately.
The Community Blood Center, headquartered in Dayton, is holding a series of convalescent plasma donation drives in the Shriver Center during February and March. Donors must have recovered from COVID-19 and been symptom-free for at least two weeks.
I had COVID back in early November, and I still feel guilty about it. I know for a fact I infected one of my friends, and the thought that I may have unknowingly given it to someone else keeps me up at night.
So, in addition to the t-shirt incentive, the opportunity to use my previous infection for good appealed to me.
When I signed up for a timeslot, I received an email confirmation saying the donation center was in the Caroline Scott Harrison Room in the Shriver Center, but a room number wasn’t listed. So, I simply wandered around the building until I found the room (for the record, it’s on the third floor).
After filling out a long, invasive questionnaire (no, I haven’t had sex with any homosexual men in the past 30 days), I had to do a quick physical. The nurse who took my blood pressure expressed concern over how low it was, but I was deemed healthy enough to participate anyway.
I was eventually led to the blood drawing area: a row of chairs attached to carts holding tubes and blood bags. I started to feel nauseous – I hate needles, and bodily fluids make me squeamish.
Nevertheless, my desire for a free shirt carried me through, and I sat down and prepared to be harvested.
I was introduced to DeJuan, who would be facilitating my donation. He started feeling my inner elbows in search of a good vein and was in the middle of asking me if I’d ever done this before when all the other employees in the room started freaking out.
The girl in the chair next to me, who was about five minutes ahead of me, was white as a ghost and sweating profusely. As someone who passes out at least a couple times a year, I knew exactly how she felt.
Needless to say, watching the girl next to me on the verge of passing out didn’t make me feel too great about my own donation. But before I had too much time to think about it, DeJuan was pricking me and sticking a tube in my arm.
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I glanced to my right and watched my own blood shoot up the tube. My stomach turned – I needed a distraction.
I picked up my phone and called my mom, and we talked about everything but my blood. Thanks to her, the 28 minutes I had the tube in my arm flew by, and DeJuan came over and prepared to take it out before I even knew it.
DeJuan was telling me about how the 600 milliliters of plasma I’d donated would be used to save three COVID patients – 200 mL per patient – when, once again, the other employees began freaking out.
A woman had brought the guy three chairs down from me a bucket, and he was dry heaving into it – tube still in arm.
DeJuan stopped what he was doing, gagged and turned away. Horrified by the vomiting patient, he didn’t finish dressing my wound until the kid was finished.
“Is it just me,” DeJuan whispered to me once he’d continued wrapping my gauze, “or can you smell that kid’s throw-up right now?”
I told him my sense of smell had never been the same since I had COVID. He told me I was lucky.
After sitting for a few minutes and regaining my balance, I got up, waved goodbye to my new friend DeJuan and claimed my rewards for donating.
I may have lost a pint of blood, but I got a gift card, a cookie and not one, but two t-shirts. That’s a pretty good deal, if you ask me.