Wednesday, December 28, 2011

If I had a crystal ball, I wouldn't be afraid of finger pricks.

In a little while I'll be leaving for the blood bank.  Donating blood has always been a given for me, in many ways, it's on the same level as voting.  In my opinion, it's my civic duty.  I have plenty to spare, a rare type (O negative), and a belief that there are always people in need of it.

The same can be said for plasma - I suppose - but this is a more difficult and time consuming donation. Because of this, plasma banks actually pay people for coming in.  Unfortunately, donating plasma isn't so much a "gift" but oftentimes a means of support for folks that are down and out on their luck.  How do I know this?  Because I still have plasma scars to show for it.

Everyone hits rock bottom in their lives at least once; a time when they either come out stronger and learn some powerful lessons, or flounder and sink.  I've hit rock bottom.  I'm hoping it will be my only experience and am grateful, of course that I survived it.  I have physical scars yes, but the memories are far more painful.  I think that's how this awful business is supposed to work; if we don't drown in it, we float just above the murky, sad memories and fight like Hell never to go there again.

When Jeff and I dropped that fateful penny on the map of our lives (refer to my prior blog, Drop a penny on a map and you'll find cosmic answers to the universe) and left everyone we knew in California, we had no idea what was ahead of us. Certainly, a crystal ball would have worked out nicely but I'm Catholic and God doesn't believe in dropping those sorts of things in my lap.

Our little Honda Civic broke down during our first Colorado winter.  Prepared only with Southern California clothing and absolutely no savings to repair the car or purchase warm weather gear, we were forced to walk to work in subfreezing temperatures.  We could not afford health insurance.  At the height of our financial crisis, Jeff's appendix ruptured.  He went into septic shock and almost died.  Our apartment, located in a beautiful 1800's Victorian house, was being taken out from under us.  The owner had decided to convert the building into a bed and breakfast.  We, along with the other tenants, were given only 3 weeks to vacate the premises. Our Security Deposit, by lease agreement, would not be returned for at least 2 months.

My parents and friends were always asking how we were doing.  I lied.  I wasn't prepared to share that we were dodging creditors, I was walking through snow drifts in black flats stretched out by three pairs of socks, or that Jeff and I considered Hamburger Helper a feast.  No.  No one needed to know our business.  No one needed to know we were sinking.

When Jeff's appendix ruptured, we couldn't hide any longer.  I had to call his mother and my family.  He was in the hospital and out of work.  Both mothers flew in together and asked that I pick them up at the airport.  Secret's out.  No can do.  No car.  No money.

That night, my mom and I had a conference call with my dad in California.  How many bills did Jeff and I have?  How much money was owed?  How much did we bring in every month?  What dollar amount could we live off of on a weekly basis?  Mom will take me to get my car fixed tomorrow...and so on and so forth.  As a 25 year old, this conversation was devastating.  I had hit rock bottom - or so I thought.  I failed.

Once our mothers left and Jeff was recovering at home, we survived off of a weekly allowance.  My father had taken over our finances and set us on track towards paying off our debt.  It helped but it didn't.  I never asked for a penny more than was sent even when we absolutely needed it.  I remember pawning a camera for a special Thanksgiving dinner.  Our marriage was crumbling.  I was miserable at my job at the local newspaper and literally walked away from it. I had no close, personal friends to rely on.  I started depending on fast food for comfort and Jeff was a chain smoker.  We needed money to support our habits.

Twice a week, on Mondays and Thursdays, we would drive to the local plasma donation center, sit in the waiting room with other desperate folks, wait for a finger prick blood test, and then spend an hour for either $10 (first donation) or $15 (second donation).  I came to hate those days.  This was the beginning of my anxiety attacks.  Finally,  I couldn't go any longer.  $25 a week was making me sick.

Eventually the money situation became very ugly.  Jeff and I were fighting over where the next pack of cigarettes were coming from or if I had shoved too much food down my gullet.  In fact, our last horrible fight - the one which caused my inner voice to say, "enough" - was over a measily $10.

To this day, as I mentioned before, I still have scars on my arms from the plasma needles.  They're a constant reminder of my past.  Sometimes, when the weather is extremely muggy, small blisters from the needle pricks will haunt my fingertips. This will send my mood plummeting.

"Mrs. Potts, this is American Red Cross calling.  Would you like to donate blood this week?"

"Blood yes, but sorry -- no plasma -- ever again."

1 comment:

Pat said...

I'm so glad that you're in a better place now. *hug*