I asked a lot of people at college whether they would be interested in donating blood. A common question was, “Who is it for?” I did not know who would need blood and when. I just wanted to donate blood because it felt right. A part of me was asking myself: Why was I absolutely ecstatic to let a needle pierce my skin? I guess there’s a certain joy in giving – which I cannot acquire by doing things for myself.
I went to the hospital confidently, but the smell of the medicines made my heart skip a beat. I looked around. There were so many patients and their caregivers. I was so lucky to just be a volunteer; I could walk in and out without the slightest worry. I made my way to the blood bank. I had two hurdles to cross – the weight check and more importantly, the haemoglobin count. I knew that my weight would not be an issue at present, but the latter worried me a little. There was a young woman right before me who could not donate blood due to low haemoglobin. Luckily, despite the low consumption of iron rich food on a daily basis (I have food at the college canteen every day), I passed. I guess I had the non-vegetarian advantage.
I went inside the room and settled down on a reclining chair. Other than a couple of hospital employees, everyone else in that room were male. Why were the women not donating? Were they unable to cross the second barrier? I did not think asking the staff for hospital registers to validate my hypothesis would be a good idea. So I sat there, looking at the other men donating blood. I looked at each of their faces carefully. Their experiences were myriad. One of them flinched and mouthed abusive when the process began, and in the next moment smiled and started texting vehemently with the other arm. The other men sat without a slightest hint of pain. The hospital staffs were polite and careful. They informed me that blood is in such a high demand, that they use up all of it within 10 days, though ideally they can store each bag for 35-40 days.
It took the nurse a while to find my vein. The willingness to donate blood is only the first step. Finally, it began. How did it feel you ask? You would hardly be able to feel it – do not get discouraged by the syringe. It is fatter than the usual, but it does not really hurt. The entire process takes around 10 minutes. My hand felt a little numb and I felt dizzy for around a couple of minutes after donation, but it got better as I sat there cherishing the biscuits and coffee. I did not have any other side effects and everything was normal by the time I finished eating.
When I was about to leave, they gifted me a cup (I had no idea they would – it was a surprise for me). I came to the lobby and looked around. There were patients of all ages. How I wish no one needed my blood – there were no diseases and no emergency ward. But such an ideal world does not exist, so I hope it helped, in a little way. Can blood donation really bridge the gap between people? Can it move beyond our identities and unite us in a way? Or would the price of my voluntarily donated blood be unaffordable by a certain section of society? Lost in a world of dreams hope and conflict, I started walking away from the hospital; towards the hustle and bustle of the city. All I knew was, I would come back again. Maybe someone else would volunteer as well.
Would you like to join me?