As with many of my ‘good’ ideas, it turned out not to be. LG was off school – their boiler had broken down and ‘No Mr Boggie, you can’t just send him in with a hot water bottle’ – and I had already resolved to go that day to give blood. It’ll be interesting for him, even educational’ I thought to myself. I wasn’t quite prepared for just how educational.
It was many years ago that I had last delivered a pint of the red stuff and had forgotten that it involves a certain amount of screening before they let you do this. It’s weird how they spend such time and effort trying to get you to go and give blood and then seem equally determined to find a reason why you should not. Having logged me onto the computer, LG and I were then guided towards a little screened off area for interrogation.
The first step was for the nice male nurse to read through a leaflet for me – being a trained healthcare professional he had picked up on the fact that I was as blind as a bat in this dimly lit hall and he would have to go through it all for me. Now, contrary to popular belief, I am not completely stupid and I knew that some of the risk factors would be mentioned but, to be honest, I was more concerned with making sure I didn’t show myself up by crying or fainting when the old needles started to come out. It started off harmlessly enough, but I knew that this chap wasn’t going to accept ‘yeah whatever’ as informed consent as he ploughed his way through all the information. Soon he was onto the interesting stuff – things that increase the likelihood of your blood being of a blood-type they weren’t interested in, i.e. rotten, stinking infected blood. Before I saw it coming, he was telling me that oral and anal sex with another male was a risk factor. Then he asked me if it was o.k. to read this stuff out in front of LG. The horse had bolted so long ago, there was just a faint smell of manure in the air, and I calmly said ‘oh, it’s ok’ while my head was going ‘oh my God, how am I going to explain this?’
Having trudged through the leaflet, he then explained that he now needed to go through a health questionnaire with me. By this time I was catching on, and anticipating some rather intimate questions, I suggested to LG that he go and wait in the reception area. Thankfully, I think the volume of boring questions outweighed the interest of the odd juicy one, and he left us to it. Question after question after question, I answered ‘no’. I started to wonder how many more seedy but probably interesting things I could admit to never having tried. Why wasn’t there a box labelled ‘boring white middle-aged git’ that I could have ticked and saved a whole lot of time? I wanted to ask the nurse if he had ever done any of these things he was asking me about. I wanted to know what proportion of the donors were as boring and inexperienced as me. There wasn’t one thing to which I could give a positive reply. If only their stupid questionnaire had asked “Have you ever snogged a girl behind the stationery cupboard door at primary school’ or ‘Did you ever get a drunken snog from Katy Whitehouse on the stairs of the Mansion House pub whilst dressed as a doctor?’ I could have sat back in my chair with a knowing smile and replied ‘Ah, yes, actually. I bet you haven’t’
Once we had established that my blood would probably not even register on the radar of any self-respecting immune system, let alone be rejected by it, LG was called back to watch me go through the next stage of the humiliation, where they pricked my finger and tested a drop of blood to see if I was anaemic. I resisted the temptation to say that maybe I should be ruled out now for having had a male nurse put his prick in my hand, and waited to see if my drop was heavy enough to sink in the solution. This was shortly after the Christmas holidays and I began to wonder what effect alcohol would have. I imagined that the solution might form a smooth, creamy head, but it didn’t, and to my relief, it was confirmed that I could now claim, as well as being bloody heavy, to have heavy blood.
At last we escaped Guantanamo corner and made our way to the beds. I half expected my interrogator to pull a rubber glove out of his drawer, so having a big needle stuck in my arm was of little concern to me now. LG did his best to reassure me by telling me ‘it’s nearly up to a litre now’ as he watched me being drained. It was all over in five minutes.
On the way home I did my best to explain to LG why they need to talk about drugs and sex and foreign travel before you give blood and he seemed ok with it all. ‘If you’ve got any questions,’ I reassured him, ‘you can always ask your mum’.