Thursday, May 13, 2010

I'll lay me down to bleed awhile, then get back up again

Let me tell you about the time I woke up on the sidewalk.

It was Tuesday, December 14, 2004. I had donated blood and was in a hurry to get back to the office and finish the stack of work on my desk. When I left the bloodmobile, I didn't bother going back into the Marriott to rest up by the fire with some cookies and juice; I ran for the shuttle instead. In the course of my life, I had donated gallons of blood without trouble.

After I got on the shuttle, I was in trouble. It was as if I was suddenly infected with a virus: I was sick to my stomach and felt terrible and weak. Being on a moving vehicle made it worse, but I saw no place to get off and sit down. I wondered if this was what it felt like to bleed to death; if this was how soldiers felt when they were wounded. A group of Latina girls looked at me with worry.

The shuttle pulled up to the Adam's Mark Hotel where there was a dormant flower bed in a low wall by the sidewalk. Finally--a place to get off and sit down. I got up and walked towards it.

I opened my eyes and saw blue sky, treetops, clouds, and buildings: I was lying on the sidewalk. A woman who wore a silver ring and called herself Suzanne held my hand and said she wouldn't leave me. A young businessman who stood very straight stopped talking on his cell phone to ask me how old I was; I told him thirty-five. A white-haired man handed me my hat. The Latina girls looked on from a respectful distance. I hoped my new coat hadn't gotten too dirty. I told everyone I was OK; I had just given blood and gotten up and started moving around too soon. But for weeks afterwards, I was weak. Later, on the rare occasion I donated blood, I felt weak and tired for days after.

I went back to the bloodmobile two days ago and didn't miss the pint of blood I gave. I could dig post holes if I had to--just like in my twenties. What changed?

I've been taking iron pills, and my iron level was 41 on Tuesday. In the past, it's always been borderline--around 38. I don't exert myself as much as I did in 2004. Back then, I was working out hard six days a week and went dancing more often. I don't have as much stress as I used to; my workload is about the same, but it doesn't bother me as much. My diet changed dramatically--low-carb versus six servings of "good" carbs every day.

In a nutshell, I believe I'm better able to donate blood due to better diet, iron pills, more rest, and less stress. Oh--and I believe that downtown Denver is one of the most polite places on earth.

No comments: