I started donating plasma last week, and today I went for my third "donation" (we're technically donating the plasma, and the money we receive,--$60 a week--is compensation for our time, but I still feel like I'm selling my body, even if only 880 ml of it). The entire process is rather uncomfortable, but I can’t decide which part of the procedure is the most offensive:
maybe the dozen or so questions about my sexual history that I have to answer every time I donate, even though the answers will never change.
or maybe the finger-prick during the pre-screening used to collect blood to check my iron and protein levels, which has created a small puncture wound on the end of three different fingers now (one finger for each visit--I'm rotating to spread the joy around a little bit, that way I'll only have to have the same finger pricked every month or so)
or the thirty-second iodine swab that isn’t supposed to hurt at all but drives me to distraction with the cold, relentless, circular pressure on my veins,
or the actual needle poke at the beginning of the extraction process, which takes place after the iodine swab, but before the iodine has dried, allowing only the slightest bit of iodine to come in contact with the broken skin, which adds an acrid sting to the already painful violation of the needle poke, which I can’t bring myself to watch because the whole process reminds me way too much of the Tropicana orange juice commercial where a hand model inserts a large candy-cane-striped straw into the side of an orange,
or the metallic film that seems to cover my mouth during the procedure, like I’ve been sucking on ball-bearings, or swallowing blood from a bleeding gum-line,
or perhaps at the end of the procedure when the phlebotomist removes the two or three strands of tape from my arm that have been holding the rubber tube in place--an unceremonious process that pulls at, but never quite removes several dozen arm-hairs,
or the icy tingle that washes over me at the very end of the procedure when 500 ml of room-temperature saline solution (approximately 72 degrees) are being pumped into my 98.6 degree body to help jump start the plasma regeneration process. The 26 degree difference eerily mimicks the sensation of jumping into a swimming pool after being in the Jacuzzi, the relative cold of the saline causing first my arm to chill, and then, during the drive home, if I forgot my coat, my whole body to shudder, my arm remaining strangely cold hours after donating
or the maybe at the end of the night, peeling and peeling and peeling off the neon green stretch tape that the phlebotomist wrapped around my arm earlier that day just above the elbow in order to sustain the necessary pressure to stop any bleeding.
As uncomfortable as the process is, a certain satisfaction rings through me when I scan my finger at the end of the procedure and the small screen tells me money has been added to my account. Easy money. Money I got for sitting an reading a book for an hour, for putting up with a few pokes and a few scabs, money that this December will mean a cozy (if frugal) Christmas with a few well planned gifts, money that means my wife and I can breathe a little, feel comfortable at least nodding to the cultural expectations of the holiday, enjoy a few sips of warm tea on Christmas Eve without worrying about our credit card balance or our student loan ledger. 'Tis the season for giving anyway, right!