Need Food for Thought? Chew on this!

* "Chew on This: Fifty-Two Inspirational Points to Ponder" is a book of inspirational short stories by Gary Brock and Kelly Tuck, and is available for purchase here!

*Words of wisdom for inspirational thought are at the end of the story!


It’s almost time to go do that porcupine thing, I thought to myself, glancing at the clock on my desktop, and go see Dracula and his bloodthirsty friends at the local chapter of the American Red Cross. As I stood to leave, I grabbed my handy Rapid Pass from the corner of my desk. I had a three o’clock appointment scheduled and did not want to lose my spot. I had been giving blood for years and my greatest fear each visit was not the needles, but receiving the dreaded, “Have a seat and we will be with you in just a moment.”

I loved the American Red Cross and the fantastic service that they provided, but sometimes they could be as inefficient in regards to time as they were nice…and they were extremely nice. If you ever happened to go to a blood drive and got stuck behind the bottleneck of questionnaire completion before the actual donating, the entire experience was akin to watching paint dry. And God forbid if they ever had to recheck blood pressure, or if all the beds were full, or if a donor giving blood began to feel faint, or if the blood stoppped flowing… There had actually been times when I’d gone to donate as a walk-in, but sat too long in the waiting area and quickly morphed into a “walk-out.”

Nowadays, I always completed the health questionnaire online, after which I could print out a Rapid Pass. This allowed me to bypass waiting in the office area. I’d also learned to call ahead and schedule an appointment. The questionnaire office could sometimes appear to be the black hole of the donor center. People go in to complete the necessary and mandatory donor forms…and you wonder if they will ever be seen again.

After I walked into the donor center and signed beside my name on the appointment log, I noticed only a few people sitting in the waiting area chairs facing the three offices. I was soon given an adhesive name tag reflecting my scheduled appointment time to stick on my shirt. A quick glance at the empty row of chairs in the appointment line assured me that I would be the next person called when one of the three offices became available! Yes! I internally cheered as I sat down, no long waits for me today! Just then, one of the office doors opened and a donor stepped out, paperwork in hand, and headed toward the actual donation area. The associate motioned for me to come in after she’d seen the time slot on my name tag.

Once I sat down, I immediately pulled out my driver’s license and donor card from my wallet and handed them to the associate with my Rapid Pass. While she reviewed my information, I dutifully rolled my sleeves. I knew the drill; I had been donating blood for years. After she scanned the bar code on my Rapid Pass and verified my identification, she asked me a series of questions, typing in my responses during our required exchange, including if I had ever donated under a different name.

Once she’d submitted my responses, eliciting a ping from the computer, she pushed back a little from the computer. As her eyes searched the screen, she smiled slightly.

“Is everything all right?” I inquired.

“Oh yes,” she replied, “the system is tracking how many people we process and notifies us in increments of five. You are our twenty-fifth donor so far today.”

I nodded, thinking, That’s new… I wonder why? The sign in sheet already gives them that data. She soon walked around the desk to check my pulse and temperature, pricked my finger to check my iron level, then finally checked my blood pressure. I was the picture of health. She then asked me to silently read the disclosure on donating and sign the authorization form. Gathering my paperwork, she opened the office door and asked me which arm I wanted to use to donate, to which I replied, “Either. Whichever chair is open will be fine – I am an ambidextrous blood donor.”

She chuckled as she led me to a chair with a left armrest for donating. As she handed my paperwork to an associate, she whispered something in her ear before turning to face me directly. “Mr. Jones, thank you for coming in today to donate.” I smiled and nodded. Interesting, I mused, leaning back against the chair to plop my arm on the armrest, they don’t normally express their gratitude before I actually begin giving blood.

There were two phlebotomists working between the four of us who were donating. Soon one of them, Mary, approached me. She had stuck me before – she was good, a real pro, and I was always happy to see her when she was working the floor.

Mary asked for me to state my name, date of birth, and home address. After making sure I was not allergic to iodine, she began to prep my arm for the needle’s insertion. She taped the tube attached to the needle leading to the collection bag to my upper wrist and commented, “You have hairy arms, so I’ll try to keep this as loose as possible.”

“Thank you,” I replied. “You know, ripping the tape off after donating is the most unpleasant part of the process for me. I’m pleased that in recent years the Red Cross incorporated a gauze tape that doesn’t pull the hair nearly as much.”

“I completely agree with you,” Mary stated, handing me a ball to squeeze as she marked my vein and applied the tourniquet for the blood collection. As usual, she instructed me to lightly squeeze the ball every fifteen seconds as I was donating to ensure good blood flow. My eyes averted to stare at absolutely nothing while she inserted the needle into my vein. As many times as I have given blood, I thought, I have never watched the needle go in.

After the initial burn, it was off to the races! I had learned through the years to curtail my normal coffee consumption and increase my water intake on donor days to ensure a speedy blood flow from arm to collection bag. During most visits I could donate a pint in less than five minutes. While I squeezed the ball, I became aware that several of the Red Cross staff members glanced my way to intentionally catch my eye and smile. Not sure what all the smiling is about...

After close to five minutes I heard a sharp ding signaling that the volume of blood in the collection bag had reached a pint. “You can stop squeezing Mr. Jones,” Mary said as she headed over to my station, “you’re all done.” She took the ball from my hand, swiftly withdrew the needle, and pulled off the tape securing the drainage tube.

I held in a grimace. No matter how much they improve the tape, tape and hair just don’t mix. Mary placed a small piece of gauze on the needle’s point of entry on my arm, then asked me to raise my donating arm and maintain pressure on the stick point. A minute passed before she told me to lower it. She cleaned up the iodine residue, stuck a Band-Aid over the vein, and wrapped the bandage with adhesive gauze. Mary then gave me the normal prohibition instructions, requesting that I spend about ten minutes in the canteen area to rehydrate.

Just as I began making my way out of the donation area, I suddenly heard an enormous round of applause behind me. Startled, I whipped around to see all of the Red Cross personnel in what appeared to be the entire donor center beaming and clapping…and it seemed to be for me. Puzzled, I glanced at everyone before Mary finally stepped forward and said, “Congratulations, Mr. Jones! You have just donated your 100th pint of blood!”

In unison, they all yelled, “Thank you!”

I was flabbergasted. I knew I had been donating for a long time, but had no idea that I had actually donated one hundred pints of blood! Let’s see, the numbers began to fly around in my brain, if my mental math is right…that makes twelve and a half gallons! Wow! I was pumped! My face stretched into a bright beam as they continued to applaud.

The manager of the donor center strode over, gave me a hug, and then presented me with a T-shirt sporting a big red 100 across the front with a profound statement on the back. My heart swelled with pride as I read…

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*Chew On This: Fifty-Two Inspirational Points to Ponder is available for purchase here!