Here comes part two, you can unbait your breath now:
Turns out I had little to no iron in my blood. Worse than that, my ferritin levels were almost nonexistent. Ferritin is the stuff that keeps the iron in your blood so your body doesn’t flush it out. It holds onto it and then releases it as you need it. Your average levels are between 180 and 250. Mine were 3. I asked the doctor if she knew where exactly these three ferritin were so I could keep an eye on them, keep them safe, but she didn’t find it funny. She already had a haematologist lined up to see me in a few days, so I made the appropriate arrangements and got out of her way.
That night Thunderball, BB, Mum and I went to Chunky’s and saw the Muppets. (Badass). On the long ride home we decided that the only solution to my blood problem – logically – was to turn to vampirism. I was mostly there already – being nocturnal and hyper intelligent and everything. (Hear that? That’s the sound of me tooting my own horn.) I could easily maintain my vegetarian cred just by keeping people on tap and not killing them. We also decided that instead of picking off random people on the street (nothing like a night ride through Dracut and Lowell to put you off eating people) it would be in my best interest to eat babies. Yeah, I know, I know, tiny bones and stringy. But I’m just going to hit them up for a few ounces here and there and not consume them whole. Or even kill them. Thus I lessen my risk of contracting something more insidious than what I may already have and retain eternal youth and beauty (you can’t get any younger blood than baby blood). Not a bad plan, really.
The following week was all Christmas preparations. Thunderball and I went insane and made everyone cookies in lieu of cash or prize gifts. (We’s broke, yo). I was really cold and tired with no appetite, but I was alright. Until I started passing out. Mixing dough in mixer. SUGAR EVERYWHERE. The next morning I wake to Mum shouting at me about the SUGAR EVERYWHERE. Then I explained, you know, ‘Sorry, I was sort of feeling weird when I tried cleaning it up after losing consciousness. I’m sorry I didn’t get it all.’ That was followed by an emergency GP visit, where she explained to me the gravity of my situation. My blood was not able to oxygenate properly, my blood pressure was dangerously low and she was considering hospitalization. I could potentially die. I was ordered to stay off my feet until the haematologists appointment and if anything else happened to go to the ER. I told her if I had to go to the one with Clooney I wanted no part of it. I seen what they do. Then I told her not to worry, there was a baby in her waiting area and I had thought to bring a straw.
The haematologists had other ideas about my infant consumption. They scheduled a series of infusions (of ferritin, red cells and a drip) to begin immediately which they felt would fix the problem. They drew more blood and told me that I had nothing to worry about, that this was most likely a onetime thing and a little fusing would do the trick. They began the treatments right there in the office. If you are squeamish you might want to skip this next bit. (Of course I say this after the straws and babies part.)
BB was there with me for the first treatment and all the ones that followed. I get sick a lot, so people, especially BB, tend to ignore it or just think I’m exaggerating. It gets old, I know. However this time, with the urgency and the test results, the more extensive testing and then the infusion procedure itself, he got really freaked. Suddenly this is really serious. Basically what they do is they put you on an I.V. with a saline bag and magical red cells in another bag and let that go. When the red cells are gone they give you the ferritin in a ‘push’ which is injected slowly in to the line via a big GIANT syringe. (Every time they bring it out all I hear is Melora Creager whispering ‘a 20 gallon brass syringe’…). When they were preparing it across the room BB says “It could be worse. You could be getting THAT.” And then of course they brought it right over to me. It’s really really thick, this infusion, so they have to push it slowly and let the I.V. dilute it. I learned quickly over the next two weeks (and six treatments) which nurses to watch out for and which to root for. One is really really bad at finding veins and would tear me up every time. At one point BB went and insisted on a different nurse and hasn’t let that one near me since. Another nurse is this incredibly racist Irish woman who pushes too fast so it is amazingly painful. (If you ever hear that I’ve had a stroke it’s because of her).
The haematologists insisted that most everybody who gets this treatment feels better immediately, but I didn’t. Rather, I got really really sick. Before I was just cold and exhausted and randomly unconscious, but now I was a wreck. Vomiting and nausea. It was a nearly immediate reaction. I was lucky that my first treatment was the Friday before Christmas, because on the following Monday I ended my second treatment with a head to toe rash. Literally. My scalp, all over my face, up my arms, everywhere. They began to start the treatments with a shot of Benadryl which cleared it up a little, but mostly made me barely conscious enough for BB to get me back into the car. During off days of treatment I was unable to get out of bed and I hurt in a strange exhausted way – as if I wrestled with the steamroller before it ran me over. It was awful, and I didn’t want to complain, especially considering that the oncology and hematology departments are the same building and the transfusions, infusions and chemotherapy treatments all take place in one big open room. I literally see much worse things being put into people every time I’m there. So I’d sit there next to a garbage barrel – for puketastic fun times – for about an hour and try to act like it wasn’t bothering me. (By the way, those little pink kidney-shaped bowl things are for chumps. Real women puke in barrels.)
It was supposed to be over after that one session of six treatments. Instead it’s happened again, and it keeps happening. Turns out, when I joked about having vampirism I wasn’t too far off. I’ll be dependent upon transfusions and infusions for the rest of my life. I have some kind of anemia in which my body makes too little ferritin, and then my immune system (shocker) tries to get rid of what’s left. I get so sick during the treatments because my body is trying to reject it. That’s why I don’t respond to it like everyone else. After the last visit the haematologist said I can look forward to getting fused to the juice every three months, six if I’m lucky. That’s two to two-and-a-half weeks every three to six months where I will be generally incapacitated. Yea, me.
So basically being a vampire entails being dependent upon human blood and human blood components. Which we already knew. But it also entails plaque psoriasis of the noggin (cradle cap! fast forward to 5:04) and possibly irreversible hair loss, rash, oxygen deprivation, vomiting, constant chill, and a ghastly pallor. And it means having a really high chance of getting blood cancers. It means having track marks for weeks on end but without the heroin chic physique. It means possibly bleeding to death during your period (that’s menstruation). It possibly causes debilitating vertigo and migraines… It includes being manhandled by creepy nurses who don’t mind telling you a few things about the blacks and the gays as they stab you repeatedly and make you bleed. There is absolutely no romance. That’s only in movies for gullible teen girls (and gay teen boys. I’m a professional hag, so I can speak to this.). It also doesn’t help with any embarrassing I.V. phobia (not needles, tubes). You’d think it would, but no.
Also, being a vampire gives you a completely new perspective on blood donation. I’ve always been for it and encouraging of it, but now I think that it’s more important because I need it. I need your blood. Give it to me. (Sarcasm!) More importantly, lots of other people need it. Lots of people, like me, find out they have some weird anemia, or have accidents, or have cancers and find themselves in that chair. In fact, according to the American Red Cross about 44,000 blood donations are needed every day – that’s a need for one donation every two seconds. So next time you see a donation truck in front of your work or school or concert (Amanda Fucking Palmer, indeed), go for it. You can also donate blood for someone specific or even to yourself, strange but true. So go for it. Twenty minutes can save someone’s life. And you’ll get juice and a cookie! (and even a sticker). And a swell mug and a t-shirt for those who donate frequently. Make it a sport, go with a group of your friends and try to out donate each other in a year. Imagine the Red Cross loot you’ll score – you’ll be the envy of all!
I hope you’ve enjoyed this epic two page whine and have now learned a thing or two about vampires and blood donation.
And why I’m so annoying.
I’m cold people. And hungry. For your blood.
Oh and my Cyborg has corrected me: babies are tender and not stringy. Sorry.