Learn from my mistakes.
  1. It was my sophomore year of college.
  2. They had a blood drive at our dorm every few months, and my friends and I would go together.
  3. We would get competitive about who could donate blood the fastest, as if it were a race.
    We were a strange crowd.
  4. I was always completely out of the running.
    I have very low blood pressure. Runs in the family. Not dangerously low, but low enough that doctors act surprised and say things like "You must be an athlete!" I smile and pretend I don't have my Fitbit's daily step goal set to 3,500.
  5. I was so slow that my friends would count how many people could give blood on the table next to me before I finished.
    2-3, usually.
  6. The nurses actually start to reassure you after a while.
    Direct quote: "Don't worry, sweetie. Some people take a little longer on the farm."
  7. But this one glorious day, I donated blood at a normal human's rate.
    The nurse asked me if my bag was full. I laughed and said, "Oh, I doubt it." But she took a look and IT WAS.
  8. And they didn't make me wait for an escort before walking to the snack table!
    As a very petite, young-looking female this NEVER happens. No matter how much I would assure them that I was a blood donation veteran and I'd never even gotten woozy.
  9. I even beat my friend Kevin!
    It was his first time donating. I winked at him as I walked by.
  10. I sauntered over to the snack table, high on life. All my friends were there.
    "Did you guys SEE that donation? I'm clocking it at 7 minutes. Pretty nice, right?" They agreed.
  11. I was not stingy with the gloating.
    I teased my friend Megan because her iron had been too low to donate. I theorized that I'd have Pat off his blood-donation throne by the next drive. I think I pointed at Kevin and called him an amateur.
  12. My RA was working the snack table. She shoved a cookie at my face.
    "Less talking, more eating."
  13. It was one of the delicious fudge-filled cookies they served once in a blue moon at the dining hall.
    Truly a glorious day.
  14. I took a bite, and it was awful.
    I wanted to spit it out, but there weren't any garbage cans and I didn't have a napkin. So I swallowed it.
  15. What could they have possibly done to the cookies? Could cookies spoil?
    I started to comment, but I looked over and saw everyone eating the cookies without complaint. Was it just my cookie?
  16. Seriously, it was rancid. The thought of taking another bite was making me nauseous.
  17. And dizzy.
  18. And my head was really starting to hurt.
  19. Oh. Oh, no.
    It wasn't the cookie.
  20. I just needed to keep eating. Or get some of the juice down. That's what they're there for, right?
    You drink the juice, eat the cookie, and you don't pass out. Right?
  21. I stared down the cookie.
    I could do it. Just one more bite. Ignore the churning stomach, ignore the rapidly drying mouth.
  22. The cookie won.
    I put it down on the table, as surreptitiously as possible.
  23. The RA noticed immediately.
    "Are you okay?" I assured her I was. She looked suspicious.
  24. I figured if I just relaxed, I'd get through it.
    And if I acted like everything was fine, no one would be the wiser.
  25. But my vision was slowly deteriorating.
    Everything was turning vaguely gray and purple. I had to do something.
  26. "I kind of have a headache."
    Said very conversationally, to the RA. Still playing it cool.
  27. "If you start feeling bad, just put your head down on your arms. It will help."
    She had never taken her eyes off me.
  28. "Oh, no I'm alright."
    Never admit weakness.
  29. I waited for the conversation to change, pretending to look out the window.
    I couldn't see out the window.
  30. Then I slowly, nonchalantly put my head down.
    Playing it cooooool.
  31. I heard the RA shout, "Chair! We need a chair!"
    Apparently putting your head down is code for "bring me a wheelchair ASAP."
  32. "No! I don't need a chair. I'm fine. I'll be fine."
  33. Someone tapped me on the shoulder. He asked me to get into the wheelchair.
  34. "No, really, I'm okay. Nothing's wrong."
    There had been so much gloating. It couldn't end like this.
  35. The RA's voice again. "If nothing's wrong, then sit back up."
    I couldn't sit back up. We both knew it.
  36. "I'm FINE. This isn't happening. Everything is FINE."
    I have been told I was shouting by this point. I wouldn't have known. I couldn't hear myself very well.
  37. The man behind me started to ask reigning blood-donation champion Pat to help lift me into the wheelchair.
    NO. Anything but this. I had to leave with my last shred of dignity.
  38. I stood up, tall and proud, and sat down gracefully in the wheelchair.
    My jaw set, my arms crossed. Giving my best "this is unnecessary" face.
  39. It was one of those wheelchairs with wheels only in the back.
    Which means the man had to tilt me back to a 45 degree angle before he could push me away.
  40. I felt myself falling backwards. The world spun, and I gasped and flailed my arms about helplessly. Then the chair caught and I realized what happened.
    And there went the dignity.
  41. The man started wheeling me back to the recovery room.
  42. We went though the donation area on the way. We passed right by my friend Kevin.
  43. "Hey, Gina. Are you donating again?"
    "No, Kevin."