I Will Never Get Used To It
As was the custom for me, I found myself in the pre-op area of Tampa General Hospital. I was there to have a surgical procedure. One of the many surgical procedures that I had experienced, because of heart failure. It was always the same routine. Early morning check in, sit and wait. Move to a pre-op room, sit and wait. Finally, a nurse comes in with all of the hardware needed to take blood and put in an IV. This, for me, was always the worst part.
Let me take you back to my senior year in high school. This will shed some light on why taking blood and inserting an IV is the worst part of any surgical procedure that I have or will endure. It was a tradition every year, at my high school, for the senior class to have a blood drive. The gymnasium would be converted from sweat socks and sneakers to cots, coolers and needles. With the bonus of orange juice and cookies. Being that I was a member of the senior class; along with the fact that I was filled with class spirit and of sound mind and able body. I felt that it was my obligation, my duty, to donate blood.
So, I signed up for a time. When the blood drive day arrived, it was like any other day at school. That is until it was my assigned time to donate blood. On that walk to the gym I grew more nervous and anxious with every step. By the time I arrived the nurse, who was checking me in, could see that I was anxious. She smiled, while handing me my form, and assured me that everything was going to be alright.
I proceeded to take my place on a folding chair, that rested with a whole bunch of other folding chairs, on the end line of the basketball court. As I sat there, paperwork in hand, I gazed out in wild wonder. It seemed to be a sea of cots, and what appeared to be big, fancy lazy boy recliners. Each of which held a classmate hooked up to a tube that was connected to a plastic bag. Each of which were slowly, but surely, filing up with blood.
I started to get light headed at the sight. (I am even getting a little light headed just writing these words!) I swallowed a lot. I yawned a few times. I couldn’t stop fidgeting. I just kept repositioning myself on that cold, hard folding chair, as my anxiety level grew and grew. And my blood pressure went lower and lower.
Finally, a nurse called my name. I smiled, stood up and bravely, all-be-it cautiously, walked over to her. The room was spinning. I felt a light sweat starting to appear in my underarms. And I felt as if I was going to pass out. The nurse never looked up until I was standing in front of her. She asked for my paperwork and then noticed that I appeared to be struggling. She asked me if I was feeling okay. To which I bravely answered, “Yes! Just looking forward to getting this over with.” Being that she had been in a high school gymnasium all day, she had no reaction. She simply methodically, like she had said it a thousand times before that moment, told me to lie down on a cot.
As I lie there, I started to feel a little better. I convinced myself that the worst was over and I laughed to myself as I made fun of how wimpy I was being. I reminded myself that people all over the world do this all the time. I started to get out of my head, which was a good thing. That is, until the nurse came over with all of the supplies needed to take my blood donation.
I don’t recall any small talk. All I can remember is how much I wanted to jump up and run out of that gym. But, alas, I couldn’t have run, even if I had the chance. For I was so weak and nauseous.
It wasn’t the pain of the needle going into my arm that got me. It was the feeling of my very life force literally leaving my body with every beat of my heart. That’s when it happened. I started to black out. And then I came back. Then I blacked out again and then back again. This went on for a little while. That is until the nurse came back to check on me.
I will never forget that woman’s face. The surprise, followed by terror. She quickly asked me if I could hear her. To which I responded positively. She then proceeded to pick up both of my legs and started pumping them, as if I was running in place while lying on my back on a cot. She then shouted for someone to bring her cold, wet towels. In an instant several other nurses were around me placing cold, wet towels on my head. One of them asked, to nobody in particular, if she should un-hook me. To which I simply responded, with all of the strength I could muster, “No!”
I gave my entire donation that fateful day. But that was the end of my academic day. I didn’t attend any of my last classes. For I spent the rest of the afternoon lying on a cot in the gymnasium, drinking orange juice and eating cookies. Oh, that is after I took an extended nap.
Well, back to Tampa General Hospital. The nurse is in my room and she could see that I was anxious. When she asked if I was okay, I told her that I wasn’t good with needles, IV’s, blood and the like. Without any hesitation, this nurse looked at me and as only someone in her position and with her experience could say, “Child, You’re in the heart transplant program now. You better get used to it!” She then methodically, like she had done it a thousand times before that moment, proceeded to insert my IV, tape me up and move on.
She was right. Yet, I haven’t gotten used to it. I have simply gotten better at dealing with it. Practice makes perfect, after all!
Yet, I wondered why, besides the mental aspect of getting in my own head, I struggled so much with blood tests, IV’s, giving blood and the like. For the only way that I can describe what I feel in those moments is the feeling of my very life force leaving my body. That was the feeling that I wanted to know more about.
Being a follower of Jesus, my first place of study, regarding any question, is always the Bible. So, I did a little search. I typed in “What’s up with blood in the Bible?” This led me down a path of studying the first biblically recorded account of blood sacrifice – the Exodus from Egypt.
The blood of the lamb, that God instructed the Hebrew people to place on their doorposts, saved them from the Angel of Death. The blood literally saved God’s people. Later, there was the sacrificial laws to be carried out in the Temple in Jerusalem. Every year the Jewish people would offer a blood sacrifice to God in order to sanctify their lives. To cleanse them of all sin. The blood literally saved God’s people. And then there was Jesus. He died on the cross. He shed his own blood to cleanse us of all sin. His blood literally saved all of us.
I learned that the biblical perspective is that blood is life. That’s the way God designed us. The blood pumping through your body right now is keeping you alive. Blood is life. That’s the way God designed salvation. It’s found in the blood. In the Old Testament, the blood of the sacrificial animal. In the New Testament, the blood of Jesus.
So, you might think that I am wimpy when it comes to blood. You might think that I am crazy when I describe the feeling of my very life force leaving my body, as the source of my struggles with donating blood, blood tests, IV’s and the like. But, as for me, I have learned that I have biblical support for my experience. For blood is life!