Stupid Girls

Saturday, September 13, 2003

Wanting To Die

I tried to get someone's attention. I was having trouble making any sound. All the lab coats ignored me. I was getting very dizzy. The room was going dark and out of focus. I was crying. I couldn't lift my arms. I felt paralyzed. It was hard to breathe.

The woman lying in the chair noticed my distress and called out loudly for help.

Finally, a short-tempered child came up to me, checked my pulse and said, "Oh, stop being a baby! It's just blood!"

Then the cramping started. I felt an overwhelming need to defecate. It was so painful, like a punch in the gut combined with food poisoning. The cramping continued in strong waves, through my abdomen, around to my back, through my genitals. It was agony.

I whispered, "I need to use the restroom. Will you help me?"

"You'll be done in just a second! Damn! Just wait, will you?" the girl huffed.

She took her time unhooking me. I couldn't sit up. I floundered and grabbed for the arm rests, trying.

At this point, the child got the hint that, perhaps, I was in real, physical distress.

I couldn't see more than a few inches in front of me; everything was dark and out of focus. The pain in my belly was real torture.

My mind was panicking. I had the sensation that I was dying. My body was begging me to please, give up, lie back and go to sleep! Get me out of this pain! The terror in my mind kept me from being seduced by my body and I scrambled to move, though, from an observer's point of view, it wouldn't have looked like I was moving much.

The child called for an assistant. They got me out of the chair and walked me. The child was angry. I don't remember much, but I got to go to the employee's restroom, as they needed the client restroom for urine drug testing. The child was angry about that, too.

I sat slouched on the commode, trying so hard to pass whatever was causing so much pain. I was so dizzy, I just slumped against the wall and tried to maintain my balance. I tried not to close my eyes; I didn't want to die on a damn toilet -- not in THIS hell hole.

I was in there a long time. They'd keep knocking, angry that they had to use the clients' bathroom.

Finally, the cramping began to ease. I was spooning water from the sink into my hand, washing my face, neck and chest, sipping it.

I was starting to be able to see.

After awhile, I could stand and leave the bathroom.

The angry child led me to the doctor's office. He said I'd had an allergic reaction to the chemicals, that I'd only get $25 that day, as I'd caused them so much work and the procedure hadn't finished (they got most, but not all, of the usual pint). He told me never to come back.

I was handed $25 in cash and admonished to leave out a side door. Seems I'd alarmed the other donors!

I was ushered out into the bright sun. I was alone.

I had to find my truck and drive quickly; I was late for my appointment with the rental agent!

I was still dizzy and partially blind. I was wobbly and weak, but I had to drive. Fast.

I just went to Google, to try to find out what had happened to me. I think I went into anaphylactic shock. It would explain why I had the sensation I was bleeding to death, getting weaker and colder by the minute. I could have died. The MERK Manual: Transfusion Medicine


I walked in to a dreary place that smelled stale and medicinal. Young, indifferent employees in tattered lab coats ran the place. I was examined by a doctor after a blood draw. I was asked about my sexual and drug habits. I lied and said I was heterosexual. I didn't, of course, have to lie about drugs.

I read the disclaimers and waivers. Something about the chemicals used to separate platelets from plasma: some people have allergic reactions. I'm never allergic to anything.

I sat in a "Captain Kirk" chair: heavily upholstered in the plastic barbers and beauty shops had, fully reclining, with, of course, large arm rests. I was daubed with betadine and an IV was inserted.

I seem to remember them telling me the whole procedure would take about 2 hours. I pulled out my book to read.

The blood is drawn from the body. It is then chemically "washed." The plasma is stored in an IV bag; the platelets (red blood cells) are returned to the "donor."

One can "donate" every three days, rather than the 30 days required to replenish blood cells for blood donation.

Each visit pays $25. New donors get a $10 bonus the first time. Donors who recommend other donors get $10 bonuses per person. If one donates consistently, one also receives bonuses.

My fellow donors were Mexican immigrants, homeless guys of all races, white students.

Near the end of the procedure, I heard the sound of the machine change.

I had the oddest sensation. I felt my head sinking into the chair back. I felt that, if the sensation continued much longer, my entire head would be swallowed by the chair, which enter my nose and mouth, and I would drown in the chair.

Money Hustle

I was running out of time. I was supposed to meet with the rental agent in less than a week. I was $25 short on the deposit.

I'm from Los Angeles. I'm still accustomed to scarce, affordable housing. One does NOT make a bad impression on potential land lords by showing up without enough money.

I have no credit; I had no leases in this town over 1 year old. I had no local references. I had little income. To me, the task of finding a place to live was, at best, daunting -- if not completely impossible. The 2 places I'd already rented in Albuquerque had vicious, chemically-dependent neighbors. I wanted a house.

So, I felt duty-bound to hustle that $25. Now, of course, I know the agent would have let it slide. Then, it seemed essential.

I can't do day labor any more: show up at an agency, early in the morning, get packed onto a truck to demolish buildings, tar roofs, landscape, etc. for minimum wage, paid in cash at the end of the day.

The other temporary agencies would take too long: forms to fill, placements to make, 2- and 3-week waits for pay checks.

I never even considered panhandling: begging for change from passers by on the streets. I've since had to resort to that, but I really HATE it.

What was left? The plasma centers. So, I started making calls.

I had consumed one, lousy beer (something I rarely do any more)the night before I called, so I'd have to wait 2 days. Shoot! Oh, well.

The nearest center was near the University. I got directions and instructions on what would be required. I got in my truck (now long-gone) and drove there, so I'd know where it was and where to park.

The day I was going was the day I'd have to meet the rental agent. It would be tight, but the plasma center assured me that, if I could be there when the doors opened in the morning, I'd be done well before my noon appointment at the house. It's only a ten minute drive. It would work.