I went to the Red Cross this morning, for my bi-monthly (octo-weekly?) appointment to have my life force drained for the purpose of putting it into some stranger who is running on empty (or something like that, I'm not a doctor). But I got shot down. My blood was rejected because my iron levels were low.

For those unfamiliar with the blood donation process, the iron check is after you read the information booklet but before you answer the embarrassing questions about things you might've done with men who have done other things with men since 1977. They thoroughly wash your middle finger and then prick it while hiding behind a clear plastic splash shield, like the kind they have at the Golden Corral. Then they collect a little blood into a plastic thing that goes into a hemoglobinometer, which measures the amount of hemoglobin in your blood. Hemoglobin contains iron and carries oxygen from the lungs to all the various places in your body that need it. My number came up 11.4 grams per decilitre, and the minimum they allow for women is 12.5 g/dL (by the way, g/dL is probably the best unit notation ever).

So the nurse who was doing this told me to sit tight, because she was going to get someone else to check it again. She also advised me to rub my hands on my pants to warm them up.

While I was still pondering these things, a man came in. He pushed aside the splash shield and pulled a splash mask off the wall. Then he proceeded to sterilize and prick my other middle finger. I asked whether it was likely my iron levels were going to change from minute to minute (I wanted to ask why it would vary from nurse to nurse, but decided not to). He explained that if you are cold, your circulation slows down, which means more iron is absorbed into the body rather than being swept along in the blood. He seemed really nervous, as if he wasn't used to talking to, like, people. Maybe most people are not curious about the blood donation process. He was likely just struck dumb by my beauty, what with my hair being still wet from the shower and all.

In any case, my left middle finger turned out to be even more iron-deficient (11.1 g/dL), so I was not allowed to give blood. The nurse gave me an information sheet about low iron and what I could do to raise my levels (hint: eat more iron).

He made sure to reassure me that I was not going to die, at least not from slightly low iron. The idea is not that I'm sick, just that I shouldn't give blood, as blood loss would lower my hemoglobin to possibly dangerous levels, and then I'd have to get a transfusion. I hadn't been worried, because iron levels fluctuate, particularly in women, who experience regular blood loss. In fact, last time I gave blood, the nurse wished she had my kind of hemoglobin readings.

So I left, still wearing my "I MAKE A DIFFERENCE" sticker. I still had all my blood, plus I had gained a lot of confusing and incomplete medical knowledge, which I have now passed onto you. I'm keeping the sticker, though.

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