Tuesday, October 26, 2004


Being close to Halloween, I visited the vampires the other day. It's been awhile and I had some extra blood that was just laying around looking bored, so I gave it something to do. Years ago, this would never have happened without heavy sedation.

I strongly suspect that, as a child, I suffered from trypanophobia. This is the fear of injections, and it ranked number one on my hit parade of things I would much rather have someone else suffer through. This is why I could never become a drug addict back when it was cool to be a drug addict. Once I found out that aside from one or two things you can just smoke, there were also things you could inject directly into your veins, that cured me of any potential drug addictions long before "intervention" ever entered our vernacular. Not counting Pepsi, I mean. Pepsi required intervention.

Then I served my mission for the Church. As I have mentioned before, I happen to be LDS. LDS young men and women serve missions for up to two years in various parts of the world. I served in Guatemala. Guatemala is considered by many to be a "third-world" country, on par with, oh, Tonga, Rwanda, and Berkeley. It is also where my Pepsi addiction began, but that's another story. In third-world countries, medical care is (or was, twenty five years ago) interesting. It could be difficult finding a doctor that spoke either English, or very slow Spanish.

It was in Guatemala that I developed walking pneumonia. I probably wrote home that this was just a bad case of bronchitis so as not to worry my mother. I used to get bronchitis every year. It also sounds better than pneumonia. In any case, I needed to see a doctor, which meant brushing off my atrophied Spanish skills. I was working with one of the local Mayan tribes, and Spanish was not their long suit. Having been x-rayed, the doctor explained to me that I needed penicillin. No problem, I thought. Been there, done that. I asked where I could get the pills and the doctor stared at me. "Pills?" he asked. "No, no. We don't get pills down here. You need injections." The Spanish word for injections is close enough to the English that I didn't need my dictionary.

To make a long story short, not only did I need ten daily injections, but my junior companion got to give them to me. Junior companions would pay real money to have this opportunity to inflict pain on their senior comps, and I would have been no different. Being on the receiving end was not something to which I looked forward.

To reassure me, on my companion's first attempt he started the javelin thrower's warm-up wherein you jerk the needle up and down over the target before finally letting go. The problem was, he didn't let go. The needle went in ("ouch!"), the needle went out ("oops!"), the needle went back in ("OUCH!"). It was the hokey-pokey of injections. My companion thought this was great fun. I was mentally calculating how much time I would have to serve in a Guatemalan prison before I could pay my intended debt to society.

The follow up to this story is that we were getting our mail just a few days later. My companion was still giving me the injections, but I was getting used to them by now. At the post office ("Any mail, Francisco?" "No, but your mother's cookies were delicious!" "Thanks, Francisco.") we met a Peace Corps nurse who was working her way down to El Salvador. Being a nurse AND a certified gringo we struck up a conversation about my injections and told her about my companion's first attempt. She laughed herself into a mild choke and managed to sputter that in so doing, my companion had "contaminated the field." Ha, ha, I thought. That Guatemalan prison was looking better with each passing minute.

Well, that experience cured me of any perceived trypanophobia. Over the years I've been injected in various regions for various reasons, a few of which would make most guys wince in agony just thinking about it. I'm not saying I'm a big fan of the needle, but I can handle it now. Which is why I was visiting the vampires the other day.

The "vampires" are, of course, the friendly American Red Cross volunteers who work blood drives throughout the world. I've been on the receiving end of their services, and I'm grateful they were there. I've not been a consistent donor over the years, but I always feel good when I do. I always feel like I'm making a real contribution to society, as opposed to this incredibly self-serving blog stuff I write.

The Red Cross gave me a donor's card last year, and it says "Type O Hero" right on it. Given my history with needles, I feel a little like a hero.

Please donate. Call 1-800-GIVELIFE to find out where and how.

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