Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Musing on Art and Blood Donation

Sketch done in pocket moleskine notebook - about 20 minutes

Yesterday I decided to go out and give blood.  I have been giving blood pretty regularly since I was eighteen, probably because my dad, who I admired greatly, often donated.  When I was in sixth grade, attending class in the National Guard armory (since I was a Baby Boomer and there were not enough classrooms in Elkhorn to accommodate all of us in the regular elementary school) I watched him donating in the gymnasium area.  I was fascinated.  In college I gave as often as I could because the ladies at the Whitewater armory not only had homemade cookies, they provided egg salad sandwiches, which I adore.

I miss sometimes.  Once in a while we are out of town, or I'm not feeling chipper enough.  One time the Red Cross deferred my for a whole year because I had the audacity to visit the Dominican Republic.  I assured them that I never left the pool at the resort we visited, and that I was protected by the rum and pineapple drinks with little umbrellas I consumed, but they were adamant.  Take a year off and be sure I hadn't contracted malaria.  I hadn't.

But, on the whole, I give regularly. Now that I am retired, I can wander in any time, and don't have to be part of the after-work rush and long lines.  Yesterday was interesting for two reasons though.  First, they asked me to give double red cells.  This was a first.  They hook you up to a machine that takes twice as many red cells as a regular donation, and returns all your plasma and platelets back to you, along with a little extra saline, as a bonus.  The up side is that you get to give twice as many red cells, and they use a finer needle than in regular donation, which improves comfort.  The down side is that it takes a half hour - oh, and the saline solution is colder than your blood.  I was warned that I might get chilled - nothing new for me there. Since the nurses couldn't get me started for a while, I had time to go out for a latte, and to locate a novel and my sketchbook.  I thought I'd pass the time drawing and/or reading.  My little Moleskine sketchbook and a pen ended up keeping me occupied most of the time. 

The machine, pictured in my rudimentary sketch, looks a little like an old fashioned tape recorder, except with all sorts of clear plastic tubes.  I was engaged pretty fully, and I didn't notice any discomfort in my arm, didn't feel cold.  Occasionally a nurse would call to see if I was OK, or a volunteer would try to offer me coffee (not necessary after a Starbucks pumpkin spice latte), but mostly I drew.  When I tired of that and tried to read I discovered something interesting.  I felt squirmy.  My hands and feet were cold.  My lips were cold.  The book made no sense.  Now I imagine that those sensations were there all along, but when my attention was diverted by trying to draw the machine, none of them registered.  What is it about the way art takes us completely out of our situation into a different place? 

Somebody, somewhere knows.


Charlene Brown said...

What an intereting story! And what an impressive use of your time, producing this great sketch... I love the way they call it a deferral, rather than a rejection, when you've been travelling (or show up with a little less iron than they prefer) and wish juried art shows would use that term as well.

Jana Bouc said...

You are so right about the way sketching can take us to a deeper, higher place that isn't disturbed by minor discomforts! I love your drawing of the equipment and your story. I should try giving blood again. The last time I volunteered was when I was working at a research university as a summer college job and they needed blood for an experiment. But none of them were able to get blood from either of my arms and left me badly bruised. I'm sure it would be much easier now, especially if I drew while I was doing it!