Thursday, April 18, 2013

To Serve or Not to Serve

I regularly donate blood. I'm donate at the local hospital blood bank. I'm healthy and I figure somebody's got to do it. Donation is a formal process. I make an appointment, and then drive across town, followed by answering invasive questions about my travel and sexual history.

The last few years brought a distinct change to this particular blood bank environment. It's a management issue. It starts with the receptionist. Recently, the receptionist glared up at me and asked, "Do you need something?" She acted as if I was a homeless person come to use the bathroom. I explained I was there to donate blood, which evidently she was not expecting. The bank was also not expecting a Bronco fan. I was ushered into another room where the walls were plastered with Steelers paraphernalia. The blood bank had become a mancave.  I was stunned by the lack of professionalism.

The person who would do the blood draw was training another phlebotomist.  The "experienced" phlebotomist started the training by taking an inkless pen to scratch my skin. "This is where I will take the blood," she told the new one. I was speechless. Who pre-injures like that?  Then the "experienced" one started showing the other worker various pieces of equipment on the floor. The new phlebotomist, kneeling on the floor,  kept brushing her head on my hand as she examined the equipment. I like to pet dogs and cats--but not strangers. I pulled my hand away, grossed out. The "experienced" phlebotomist then yelled at me for moving. Evidently, my scratched skin no longer acurately reflected the vein she had decided on.  Luckily, the blood draw went okay. Except the phlebotomist pair had to go run off to have lunch so I never got the usual survey about my experience to take home. After donating, I sat at a table to drink cranberry juice, have some snacks and read the newspaper. A different worker (the Steeler's fan?) came over to me and said, "Is there something I can help you with?" Again I was a homeless person. This time I'd wandered in the blood bank and was stealing food. I ignored her, seriously annoyed. She grabbed my peanut wrapper from the table and huffed off.

This sequential hostility and lack of professionalism had an impact. I was reluctant to donate again. I stalled for months. I finally convinced myself the world needed my (rather ordinary) blood. I vowed that if at any point I was mistreated I would walk out.

So I returned to the blood bank a few weeks ago. Unfortunately. So I showed the phlebotomist where I normally get a draw. She ignored my suggestion. Instead she said she'd found a vein she liked better.  She summarily stuck the needle in the crook of my elbow. I felt a horrible sting travel from my arm all the way down to my hand.  I nearly fainted. In all the years of donation, I had never felt anything like that. I told her it really hurt.  She did nothing. She didn't reposition the needle at all. She merely asked me if it was feeling better. I went through the donation in pain. I shouldn't have. Because she injured a nerve.

Nerve injuries take a long time to heal. If they ever do. For more than 10 days, my hand alternated between numbness and sparking electrical pain. The weakness in my hand was so profound that I couldn't even grasp a fork to cut meat.  I couldn't fold clothes, dance, put away dishes, make beds. I couldn't lift anything. Everything took twice as long.

It's been almost three weeks and the nerve still hasn't grown back completely.  My hand strength is back though, making my life easier, but I still have residual pain and numbness in my hand. I won't be donating blood there again.

I think there's an attitude by some organizations that carelessness toward volunteers is just fine. They believe that volunteers have a such a strong need for service that merely satisfying that need is good enough. It's not. It's true that I enjoy service, there are plenty of other ways I can volunteer. My ordinary blood will be appreciated somewhere else.

This holds a lesson for BDSM practitioners. Service and submission may be an intense need, but that desire shouldn't be abused.  The sub can easily find somebody else to serve.

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