By Jerry Zezima
The Stamford Advocate
As a frequent blood donor and a proud member of the Gallon Club, which has nothing to do with my weekend beer consumption, I have often wondered if the people who get my blood suffer from terrible side effects like telling stupid jokes and growing a mustache. And if, especially where facial hair is concerned, any of them have been women.
I gained some insight when I found out that the blood I donated recently had gone to New York-Presbyterian Hospital’s Weill Cornell Medical Center.
The journey began during a blood drive at work, where a phlebotomist named Susan looked over my paperwork and asked what type of blood I have.
“Since I’m a newspaper columnist,” I told her, “I should have typo blood.”
“Are you positive?” she said.
“Actually, I am,” I replied. “A-positive, though I like to call it A-plus because it makes up for the fact that I never got one in school.”
Susan took my temperature and my blood pressure.
“Do I have a pulse?” I asked.
“Yes,” she responded. “You are, technically, still alive.”
“That means,” said George, another phlebotomist, “you are a good candidate to give blood. Sometimes, being alive is all we require.”
“Do you take any medication?” Susan inquired.
“I have a prescription for cholesterol medicine because my numbers used to rival the gross national product of Finland,” I said. “And I take baby aspirin because I am, of course, a big baby.”
“I can see that,” said Susan, who drew blood from my middle finger (it was nothing personal against her) and performed a test indicating that my cholesterol level was normal, if such a word could be used to describe me.
Then it was time to roll up my sleeves.
“Which arm do you prefer?” asked a phlebotomist named Chris.
“Either is fine,” I said. “It’s a good thing I’m not an octopus or this could get really confusing.”
“You have good veins,” said Chris, who chose my right arm.
“My donations are in vein, but I hope they’re not in vain,” I noted as I proceeded to pump out a bag full of blood in a personal best 5 minutes 37 seconds.
“That’s a good time,” said Chris.
“That’s because I had a good time,” I replied, thanking Chris, George and Susan and heading home with the satisfaction of knowing I would be helping someone who needed blood.
I didn’t know who he or she might be until I received an email saying that my donation had gone to New York-Presbyterian.
“Thank you for giving blood,” Kathleen Crowley, manager of transfusion medicine and cellular therapy at Weill Cornell, said when I called to find out the identity of the poor recipient. “I can’t say who got yours, but I can say that you met all the requirements of being a donor.”
“We have very high standards and never lower them,” said Dr. Cheryl Goss, assistant director of transfusion medicine and cellular therapy. “Otherwise, we wouldn’t take you.”
“Was my blood delivered in an armored car or did it get a police escort?” I wondered.
“Neither,” Crowley said. “It was brought here in a delivery truck. You’re important but not that important.”
“Will the person who got my blood start telling stupid jokes and grow a mustache?” I asked.
“Contrary to popular belief,” Crowley said, “your characteristics are not imposed on the person who gets your blood. If you like bananas, it doesn’t mean that the recipient will start eating them.”
“Unless the recipient is a chimpanzee,” I said. “Then it would be a chimp off the old block.”
“We haven’t received a letter saying that a patient had an adverse reaction to your blood,” Dr. Goss assured me.
“Your donation is much appreciated,” Crowley said. “And the world is safe from one more practical joker.”
Copyright 2013 by Jerry Zezima