I Donated Blood and All I Got Was This Crappy Hospital Bill

The New York City Blood Center keeps calling me every morning. I’m at work so all I see is that I have a missed call on my home phone, they don’t even leave a message.

I’ve only donated blood once so far in my life. The other time I tried to, I was deferred since I’d been to a tropical country and I could have contracted malaria. Now that I’ve donated blood and found to have the universal donor type (O-Negative,) they want more of me!

I’m glad to help, really, but let me explain about what happened the first (and last) time I donated blood.

There was a blood drive at work on April 1st of this year. I’d never donated blood and I thought today would be a decent day to do it. I had ate well, was a bit nervous, but hey, I’d be saving a life.

I went upstairs before lunch and filled out the paperwork to donate blood. It had been a few years since I’d traveled to a malaria-ridden country so I was good on that front. I had enough iron in my blood and my blood pressure was perfect. Awesome!

They bring me to the back and sit me down. I asked the nurse if I could lay down since I sometimes get dizzy and I wanted to take precautions after I heard my boss’ story about donating blood. Everything was going well, I looked away when they pricked me since that is usually when I get nauseous about blood. I was there for a while and was almost forgotten about as the blood pumped from my vein into the bag hanging by the side. The machine beeped when it was full and they finally came over to take a look at me. I sat up slowly and for the most part felt fine.

I wandered over to the table by the entrance to partake in the apple juice and cookies. I was just polishing off the last sugar cookie when things began to go downhill. I suddenly became seriously nauseous and the world gradually became black and soon I found myself laying on my side exposing the innards of my stomach to the crowd. After I regained my facilities and rolled back over I drank some Coke and laid there for a while. My quick trip to donate blood was soon turning out to take much longer. I started to feel better and said I was good enough to go back to work. And I was… for about 2 hours. I ate lunch and generally felt fine.

In the mid-afternoon I started to feel real dizzy. I went to the restroom and the world started getting fuzzy again, like it did earlier, and like it does when I have low blood sugar. I ended up passing out in the bathroom a few times and the last time someone found me. They retrieved a nurse and a wheelchair from upstairs to embarrassingly carry me back to the nurse’s station.

They put me on a recliner and a laid bored by myself and they would come over once and a while to ask how I was doing. I told them I was “tingly” in my fingers and toes. Apparently this was a red flag for them (later, I learned it was not, I just felt that way because I was hyperventilating) and I had to be rushed to the emergency room.

I had never ridden in an Ambulance before. Adam is an EMT and I’ve been in an ambulance before, while parked. This was an entirely different experience. For one thing, I was strapped to a stretcher since they didn’t want to be held liable if I passed out and conked my head on the way out of the building. Overall the ambulance experience was a pleasant one. The techs were hilarious and took my mind off the impending emergency room visit and hospital bill.

Oh, didn’t I mention? It just so happened that I learned the day before that my health insurance was canceled due to some mess-up in the paperwork. I would spend the better part of April and May fighting with my insurance carrier and my past employer about my health benefits and payment for my hospital stay – but that’s another story!

I ended up staying at the hospital for the rest of the day until around 9 o’clock when they finally released me after a couple EKGs, blood tests and a tasty saline drip. Yum. I had to wait forever to go through these seemingly easy and quick tests since the emergency room was apparently very full that day. Lucky me!

Eventually the doctor came to tell me the test results and basically the gist was everything was inconclusive. I was just weak after donating blood and that happens to people sometimes. If I want to do it again, I should do it on a weekend and eat a big, fatty breakfast beforehand and plan to chill for the rest of the day afterward. Adam had rushed to see me at the ER about an hour after I arrived and the poor guy had to wait uncomfortably by my side while waiting. We didn’t get food, but luckily I had a few things left in my lunch bag that I was able to carry with me, but it didn’t help Adam too much since it was Passover. Sigh.

When they let us leave, I managed to wander home back to Westchester myself and even went to work the next day because I’m a masochist. I fully recovered my strength by the Monday after.

I don’t mean to be cruel or bitter with my story, and I really would like to donate blood in the future. But until I get some decent health insurance and have the time to spend all day exhausted after the appointment, I hope you will understand the reason for me ignoring your calls.


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By Rachel Ober

Rachel is a Ruby on Rails/Front-end Developer in Manhattan, New York. She loves figuring out answers to problems and making enjoyable user interfaces. When she isn't in front of a computer, she can be found running around with her sidekick, Isabella the Pembroke Welsh Corgi.