Being essential

On the morning of April first I got things ready. FAB-e’s battery back in the bike and FAB-e outside ready to go. Dirty washing in the washing machine, with soap powder and disinfectant. Coat hanger within reach hanging from the rafters in the carport.

All ready for when I went to give blood at 2.00pm.

The roads were quiet. Not totally deserted, but quiet. Even the cop car that drove in front of me around the roundabout was quiet. So quiet that I didn’t originally realise that it had its lights flashing. It pulled over to the side of the road, as I went around the roundabout and down the service lane behind the Thames War Memorial Hall / Civic Centre. I parked in one of the shop’s carpark a) because the shop is now empty. And b) because all the shops are shut.

It was so quiet, that I was wondering if the blood donating was still going on today, (April Fool’s?) but there was a labelled car and a trailer parked in the service lane, so I was able to relax.

Those of us waiting stood our mandatory 2m away from each other (me with my full-face helmet on) chatting. And watching as a “plain clothes” car joined the police car that I’d seen earlier. Then the police took a woman out of the car the police car had been following into the service station on the corner and put her into their police car. Three big police officers and one woman in the car. No social distancing there.

You’ve got to admire the dedication of those poor cops. And all the essential services.

I was the second person at the hall, and I remained in my bikie get up, including helmet. Finally, they let us inside – to stand on the crosses taped to the floor. Then it was one at a time to answer questions. A bloke in front of me got sent away as he hadn’t made an appointment. Hopefully, he’ll be able to book in for tomorrow.

I finally removed my helmet when it was time to answer questions about our potential proximity to Covid-19, before I was given a new Blood Service pen to use whilst filling in the forms. (No cross contamination.) Then it was into the hall proper and a queue of more crosses to stand on.

I was welcomed warmly by the reception lady, who’d remembered me. (How many pink bikies do you know?) I had to toss my ID card onto her table, which I managed to do upside down so she couldn’t scan it. She wasn’t allowed to touch it, so I had to flip it over for her.

Normally when you get there, you’re given a folder with laminated pamphlets which you have to read cover to cover and then fill in the form. This time we were just given the form and a disinfected clipboard to lean on, before being instructed to go and sit on one of the neatly spaced out chairs to do our ticking.

Have you ever had sex with…? No

Have you been overseas in the last…? No

Have you ever injected yourself with drugs…? No.

It’s the same every time. I create two neat columns of no ticks – aside from when I went to England, and had to tick Yes to “Have you been overseas in the last three years?”

As they’d only just opened, I was the second to be interviewed. First question: “Have you read our pamphlets?”

“Not this time.”

“Have you ever…?”

“No.”

“Any illness?”

“No.”

“Are you aware if you’ve had any contact with anyone who’s had Covid-19?”

“I’m not aware of it. No.”

My iron levels were 122, when the minimum is 120, so I don’t know if that’s good or adequate, but they were going to drain me anyway. Although, with the amount of blood they squeeze out of your finger after the pin-prick, it’s a wonder you have any left.

I was escorted over to a left-arm chair and greeted by the vampire, sorry, technician who was take my donation. She was great. Bright, and cheerful, and had me laughing. She began to tear off three strips of tape, which she stuck the tape to my blood pressure cuff, and said that that was for taping my mouth shut when I started screaming. I said I’d try not to scream.

Insertion of the needle wasn’t too painful, and then the IV tube (I suppose it’s an IV tube if it’s draining out of a vein?) was held in place by the three lengths of tape.

A few squeezes of the stress ball that they give you to pump the blood and she was happy to leave me to it. Then, as she waited for the next patient to invade her slice of pie (the two donation chairs that she was restricting access to, including mine), she began to dance along to the music the radio was playing. It’s a wonder I didn’t rip the cannula out with laughter.

The process was good and fast as I’d made sure that I’d had plenty of liquid this morning, but my friendly tech had moved onto another donor by the time I’d finished – about five minutes after I’d started. A pity, I could have told her that I needed the tape to stop me from scream as removing the tape from my arm hurt more than withdrawing the cannula. 😉

Then it was sit back and relax for a few minutes, whilst another technician offered to get me something to drink.

This was another change. Previous times, the Thames’ Lions have been on duty, keeping us supplied with drink (OJ, tea, coffee, or water) and biscuits. Of course, things being what they are, this wasn’t possible today – probably as much because most of our Lions are over 70, as for any other reason. So it meant that the techs had to get our drinks on put them on the tables for us.

That was another change. Normally two tables would be positioned with end to end and surrounded by lots of chairs so donors could sit and chat. This time it was four tables, two metres apart (of course), and with a chair at the head of each table. In the past, the bikkies would be supplied in communal Tupperware containers so you could help yourself. Today, my cup, and a little bag of biscuits, was placed for me at the end of table two. (Four biscuits! Two different styles of “plain” with cream filling, one Cameo Crème, and a chocolate bikkie! Spoilt!) While I enjoyed my refuelling, the techs disinfected down the donation chair I’d just been sitting in. (I had had a wash that morning!) They also disinfected the refuelling chairs as well.

Better to be safe than sorry. Even if the refuelling chairs were cloth and not that easy to disinfect.

And if you’re wondering, there weren’t a lot of changes made to the tech’s processes. They already spend a lot of time using hand sanitiser as a part of their job. After all, blood’s just as effective at transmitting diseases. But they don’t have masks of any sort. I didn’t like to ask, but I’m guessing they would like a bit more protection there.

One thing that I noticed was that they had a box of the soft toys that they give to people after their first(?) donation. They’re shaped like anthropomorphic blood drops. The box was called “Dudes”. I never knew that was their name. I’ll have to start calling my three Dude One, Dude Two, and Dude Three.

The last change to the day’s proceedings was the exit. Normally, I would have left my bikie gear with the Lions and then collected it on the way out, walking past the blood donors and reception. This time it was “Exit. Stage right” through another door at the far end of the hall. Once I managed to push it open. I nearly had to ask for help, until I put my shoulder to it.

I did take a bit of a detour home, just to see how busy the town was. That was a detour of one block. The pharmacies were open, as was the vet’s, and the bulk food store, and Organic Co-Op. And there was a queue outside the Four Square. I did see more traffic, but not a lot. It was kind of like a Sunday afternoon, more than a lockdown.

Speaking of lockdown: I was kind of hoping that the cops would pull me over, just so that I could say that I’d been giving blood. 😀

I got home, put FAB-e away, and started disrobing. Bikie jacket onto the carport coat hanger. Helmet on FAB-e’s rear view mirror, and gloves pinned to the carport clothes line. Shoes left outside and socks and outer clothes off and put straight into the washing machine, which was turned on. Then it was to the bathroom to wash my hands. Once I’d done all that, (and indeed, got dressed in clean clothes) I went and said that I was home.

I’m always pleased to give blood. To paraphrase a character in one of my stories, I might not be able to do anything frontline, brave, and dramatic to save a life. But I could still save a life just by spending a maximum of half an hour (if I don’t get talking to the Lions) giving blood. Last time I didn’t even give blood for a transfusion’s sake. My blood type means that I can accept anyone’s, but can only donate to the same blood type as me, but they are able to use my blood to make eyedrops for people who have excessively dry eyes – maybe caused by a side effect of some other treatment.

This was my opportunity to be essential to the essential services. And so long as it can be done safely, with no risk to myself, the technicians, or anyone else, I’ll proudly continue to do so.

Dude

Dude!

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