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Photo: Taelar Pollmann · The Sentry

Stress ball

A girl around my age sat in one of the chairs in St. Catejan’s for last week’s blood drive, squeezing a stress ball to fill up a pint-size bag of her blood. Seeing her calm kept me relaxed…until I realized that my blood pressure would have to be taken before I donated. It turns out I just needed the stress ball. 

I’ve wanted to donate blood for awhile, but something would get in the way when there were blood drives on campus, whether it was a tattoo I had gotten less than a year earlier or my class schedule. For selfish reasons, I want to donate to know my blood type (I at least know I’m one of the O’s), and for not so selfish reasons, I want to donate to help with the shortage of O type blood in Colorado. So, I was excited to find out that there was a blood drive last week on one of my days off. 

Unfortunately, I have a bad habit of overthinking about needing to stay calm when the blood pressure cuff squeezes my upper arm. I’m obviously unsuccessful at staying calm when the numbers on the machine alarm any physician I’ve seen. I’ve answered the “Are you nervous?” question more times than I can count. I just didn’t want to hear it that day. 

140 over 80—that was my blood pressure. Apparently, that is a very concerning number for someone who is about to donate blood even though I read 180 over 100 is acceptable. The phlebotomist gave me some time to “zen out,” as he said, to get my top number below 99 (I don’t think I have ever been that relaxed in my life). He verified my information and took my temperature. That was fine, but then he pricked my finger for a blood sample. That was bound to lower my blood pressure, right? 

I couldn’t donate.

They reassured me that it would be much easier the next time I tried to donate because I was already registered. Yes, the hard part of filling out my name is truly over. I was frustrated that the only blood I lost that day was on the bandage where my finger was pricked. 

On my walk home, someone who worked for the blood drive asked if I had time to donate. I did have time to donate. But I could have had all the time in the world, and my blood pressure would still not have been able to reach double digits. I do need a stress ball.

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