These and Those

Musings from Students of the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem

Magen Dovid Adom Employees Aren’t Vampires

Posted on May 15, 2015 by Alana Bandos

Magen Dovid Adom Employees Aren’t Vampires


How I got over my fear of donating blood

Current pop culture is obsessed with vampire lore. True Blood, Twilight, and the Vampire Diaries are proof of this trend. For some reason, we are attracted to the idea of human-like monsters killing other humans because of the desire for blood. One might even say we thrive on the violent and gory scenes that appear on our LCD screens. If we indulge in these violent images on screen, why then do we shy away from the simple, and entirely human paramedics who ask us to donate blood? Has the vampire imagery become so ingrained in our consciousness that we see anyone trying to take our blood as a threat? And why is it that seeing blood on tv is thrilling, but blood in sterile little bags can cause a grown man to faint?

I don’t have the answer to those questions, but I can share my own fears before I donated blood for the first time, and how those fears were proven in vain.

Once upon a time, when I just a little kid, I psyched myself out before I had a routine blood test and I fainted from my nerves. In my mind, the tiny amount of blood that was taken from my body was the reason that I had fainted. From then on, I associated any blood draw with fainting and perpetuated a terrible dread of any surgical procedure.

When Meira asked me before the Pardes blood drive in the fall if I would be willing to donate, I said no. I told her that I had low iron (which was true once upon a time) and that I fainted from donating blood. I wasn’t being completely honest. My one low iron test from my teenage years became an excuse to hide behind. The fact that I fainted from donating blood was false too; as I had never actually attempted to donate blood, I had no way of knowing what would happen. I did offer to help other people who were donating though, and spent the first three hours of last semester’s blood drive serving scoops of ice cream and holding hands. Each donor that I helped asked me the same question; was I donating today? I told them the same line I had fed Meira; that my blood was just too low in iron. Secretly, I felt relieved that I could hide behind my low-iron wall, knowing that no one would challenge me with that logic.

At least I thought no one would challenge me. After many donors asked me the same question, and accepted my shoddy answer, one donor pushed a bit further. He asked me if I had my hemoglobin tested on that exact day. He said that sometimes, hemoglobin could be low one day and perfectly fine the next. In that moment, I realized that I could no longer take shelter in my refuge of dishonesty. Partly because I wanted to prove that my iron was indeed low, and partly because I felt bad that I was not even attempting to donate, I filled out my forms and had my hemoglobin tested. When the Magen David Adom worker pricked my finger, I didn’t even flinch. I was confident that the result would come up negative and free me completely from the need to donate. Clearly, the needle she used wasn’t scary, and neither was the small amount of blood that pooled on my middle finger. What truly scared me was the result- my iron was actually perfect and I was in good shape to donate that afternoon.

Suddenly, I lost my only excuse and found myself in a sticky situation. How could I not donate right after the whole room heard that my iron was great? The moment the paramedic told me that my blood tested fine, I started to panic. I felt the usual dizziness start to well up and was worried that I would faint that very instant. And yet, all I was doing was sitting in a chair! The finger prick was done and I wasn’t even next in line to donate.

I realized in that moment that my fear of fainting had nothing to do with the actual blood draw. My dizziness was brought on by nothing more than the fear itself. After leaving for a moment to compose myself, I reentered the room and told Meira that I was ready to donate. She saw that I was still scared, and told me that I was brave (I felt like a little kid in the doctor’s office again). She held my hand, had me turn away from the paramedic about to take my blood, and distracted me. My attention was also captivated by a stranger who showed up to donate, a girl who revealed that she was also from Milwaukee, Wisconsin. She and I talked for about 10 minutes and discovered that we had actually grown up on the same tiny cul-de-sac street and had been practically next-door neighbors as kids. Before I knew what was happening, the paramedic asked me to hold the bandage on my arm and lie down for another minute before I could get ice cream. I had no clue that the paramedic had started taking my blood- not to mention removing the needle. The entire procedure was entirely painless and quick. After 2 minutes, I sat up a little tentatively, still afraid of fainting, and realized that I actually felt 100% fine. I ambled over to the “recovery station” and ate delicious ice cream. When I left the blood drive, I felt refreshed and strong, and not in the least bit dizzy. As it turns out, donating blood isn’t all that bad! Moreover, I knew that my one pint of blood would save three lives. That reward was almost as good as the Ben and Jerry’s ice cream! Just kidding, it was better! By the end of the experience, I felt like a rich hotel guest with staff who pampered me and catered to my every need. The volunteers were amazing and the MDA paramedics were kind people who taught me some Tanakh Gematriya while I waited. In fact, the MDA workers were anything but vampires!