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ABCs of My Sunday - A Hypochondriac, Blood, and Covid-19

As I mentioned in this week's episode of Doomsday Happy Hour, I was scheduled to give blood today -- and I'm a hypochondriac at heart. (By the way, I've worked really hard to tamp down on the hypochondria and made huge strides prior to Covid.) I signed up to give notwithstanding a good bit of nervousness because there's a blood shortage here, and I have a relatively rare blood type. At the same time, I wanted to make sure (as sure as possible) that donating wouldn't result in me bringing Covid into our home.

My nervousness wasn't based solely on being a hypochondriac -- not even a hypochondriac living through the worst pandemic in a century. It's also based on two other factors: my children are tiny (they can't yet wipe their own butts or feed themselves cold cereal, or even pour themselves a glass of milk) and every single adult in their orbit is high risk for one reason or another (or multiple ones). Perhaps you heard about the police officer who died of Covid before his twin babies were born. And now imagine if it were to hit both parents badly. Actually, you don't have to imagine this, because it did happen to five young, now-orphaned children in L.A. The tragedy Covid-19 has wreaked across this country is breathtaking. I surely don't want to bring it into my home, especially for the sake of my kids. Further, their father is a doctor with a public health focus, so he is a part of this battle; if I were to help one but hurt many by sidelining him, that would be a net loss even for the world outside of our family.

But I also look at my husband and want to do more to help others, which is why I hoped I could find a way to give without putting any of us at risk. So I called the blood donation organization and the administrators of the building hosting the blood drive to find out about their Covid protocols. How were they spacing appointments and people in the waiting areas? I even asked about the ventilation/air filtration in the room. (They'd converted from an energy efficient air filter to one of the highest quality for safety.) I also talked with my husband about whether I needed to wait there after donating for 15 minutes, as one normally does, because I didn't want to do so indoors with a bunch of strangers (even with distancing), and I definitely wasn't going to unmask to drink or eat anything after. And because my husband was staying with the kids, I'd have to walk home once it was over, including passing very near highway traffic.

I tried to complete my pre-donation questionnaire online so I wouldn't spend any additional time in the collection room (again, strangers and indoors -- not my ideal right now). That didn't work. So around 8:45am I put on the one N95 we had in our home and goggles. I also took my ID, my blood donation card, hand sanitizer, a backup (regular) mask, and a face shield (which we felt was probably redundant with the goggles). Well, here's what happened....

1) The goggles broke just as I got to the donation area. Awesome! I tried to knot the elastic but instead put on the face shield (in addition to the N95 mask and my now-foggy glasses). Ok, I was still set.

2) My blood donation card didn't work, so check-in was a tad slower. Ok, not bad.

3) I learned that women who are menstruating basically shed iron as they bleed and so are likely to have a low iron count. I'd failed the iron test on one of the two other occasions I'd tried to donate, and I had my period (sorry if TMI). So I'd probably be disqualified on this score -- which is why I wished the person taking my vitals started here. Because if that would likely disqualify me, we needn't have bothered with the rest.

4) Unfortunately, we didn't start with the iron test. We started with a temperature check and, unlike at the door, this was an oral temp check. That meant that I had to undo the seal from my N95, which in my mind I'd built up as a safety seal that wouldn't be broken, AND put a foreign object in my mouth. It was done in a totally safe and hygienic manner, but it made me extremely nervous at the time -- and AT THE SAME TiME they measured my blood pressure.

5) I was sitting with my feet crossed the first time they took my BP. (At the last second -- but too late for that reading -- I remembered this was a no-no.) And I had rushed over so as not to be late. And then, with my mouth exposed and a foreign object inside it, I was supremely nervous. I got one bad reading, then sat to the side for a few minutes; then I got another bad BP reading, so I waited some more. I tried to picture my husband and kids with me by a waterfall (my happy place). Instead of the normal relaxation that flows from images of waterfalls, though, I worried about my loved ones and that I was putting these faces I was envisioning in jeopardy.

I failed the third BP reading.

I might have tried to sit and calm down, but I found myself increasingly nervous as more people arrived to donate. So what was the use? As it happened, I didn't get to choose whether or not to keep trying. After the third bad reading, I was told I would not be allowed to donate today.

I couldn't donate today, but I do hope to soon. If your area is experiencing a blood shortage, and if you're not a hypochondriac and/or can get a ride home and/or no one in your family or pod is high risk, maybe you might want to consider making a donation. I mean, imagine if every blood donor were like me. Our blood banks wouldn't be short now; they'd be empty.

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