Sunday, March 10, 2013

Jury Tales - Part Two - Give a Little

Roughly 15 years ago I was summoned for jury service. At that time, I reported on the required morning, read magazines all day and then was told to call the next morning to see if I my services would be required again.

They weren't.

Summoned again in 2013, I fully expected this jury duty service to be similar to my service from the 90s.

It wasn't. Not even a little.

Collecting ALL the Stickers!
But some of what made it different was entirely my doing.

Monday morning, at the initial jury pool assemblage, John Barrett, Milwaukee County's elected Clerk of Circuit Court, explained the rules and procedures for jury candidates. Near the end of his instruction, he added that we should approach him with any ideas that we have to make our time in the jury pool more productive or enjoyable. He said a person approached him 8 years ago and suggested, "We are here all day with little to do. Why don't you arrange the opportunity for jury pool members to donate blood while they are waiting?"

Thus a great public service tradition was born. Every Monday for the last 8 years, the Blood Center of Wisconsin has been bringing their mobile unit to the Milwaukee County Courthouse and collecting this life-sustaining human motor oil.

Following Mr. Barrett was a representative from the Blood Center. I cannot remember her name, but she gave an impassioned plea for donation.  By the time she was done, I would've donated a gallon right on the spot.

Embarrassingly, I have never donated before, but I recall my many times in the NICU at Children's Hospital seeing my nephews and niece require transfusions. I knew then that donating was the right thing to do and my opportunity to give would never be more convenient than while whiling away the hours waiting for jury selection.

So I finally decided to give a half-pint. The opportunity was too convenient not to. I'm one of those who darn near faints at the thought of a needle going into my arm. I always will be. So I approached my apprehension with more of a game-like mentality: conquer my fear; beat my foe.

I recently read a few stories that one never really lives a fulfilled life unless they face their fears and challenge them. Like, if you  have a fear of public speaking, the best thing to do is get out there and speak publicly. My blood-giving challenge was similar: overcome my irrational fear of having a needle stuck in my arm. I call my fear "irrational," because I saw 2-pound babies have multiple tubes, needles and sensors penetrate their epidermis, dermis and hypodermis frequently -- if they can do it, any fear a 46-year old healthy person would have is clearly irrational.

I let myself become subservient to the process: questionnaires, waiting, the finger prick and the blood pressure test. The latter which reveals that I had better see a doctor soon. My blood pressure, it's not low; it never is. In fact, at first my pressure was too high. They would not allow me to give blood unless my pressure readings descended. The nurse gave me 5 minutes to relax and take some deep breaths. After 5, she took it again and fortunately it had come down enough for me to proceed with my donation.

Finally they led me to a portable cot. Again, a few questions about my allergies to iodine, if I had any. With no allergies to report, the nurse turned over my left arm and said, "Woowee! We like them veins!"

I'm not sure if this is the worst thing she could have said or the best. To the former point, this made me think of my veins and a needle penetrating them, which gave me the willies and nervous sweats all the more. To the latter point, it cracked me up. I mean really cracked me up. With my nerves jittery already, a little humor made me laugh like a Henny Youngman one-liner.

While I was still laughing, she quickly inserted her appliances and before I had a chance to Instagram a picture of the process, she had collected her pint. (Note: a small benefit of high blood pressure is I donate faster than the average guy.)

Simple. Painless. Much different than the other times I've lost a half-pint of blood - which typically occurred with blunt severity and in far less sanitary conditions. (Oh, State Colleges of Wisconsin.)

Thank you to the person who suggested this idea to Mr. Barrett 8 years ago. I think it was a great one and I appreciate the opportunity to finally not have had a reason not to give. Having finally donated, I will do my best to make a commitment to do this at least a few times per year.

I also appreciated the Otis Spunkmeyer muffin and tomato juice chaser. (Free lunch!)

Save lives. Donate blood. If I can do it, anybody can.

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