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The Red Cross had been aggressive in the previous few weeks. It felt like every day I would get a phone call soliciting my donation. That was my punishment for surrendering my contact information at my job’s blood drive. Truth was, an hour off of work was far more alluring than the prospect of helping out or “making a difference” as they put it. Karma is ruthless.
I answered the first time, not recognizing the number. They always have a unique way of making you feel guilty before they ask; “Thank you for your last donation! The blood you gave saved three lives!” And after listening to the lady describe the ongoing desperation for more donations, I feigned concern and let her know I will stop in at some point. When she offers to schedule me an appointment, I awkwardly reply that I am very busy and cannot commit to anything specific. She thanks me through a rehearsed judgmental tone and hangs up.
She called again the next day and left a voicemail when I ignored the call. I listened to it later in comical disbelief as it was the same woman as before, yet she was speaking as if we had never talked yesterday. I assumed this was a simple mistake. After all, who knows how many calls she had to make each day. But the calls continued. Never malicious, and unwaveringly pleasant, oblivious that she was leaving the same message every day.
Eventually she started calling from different numbers. I answered the first time and lied, telling her I had already donated earlier in the week. She thanked me and apologized for the oversight in records. The next day she called again, leaving another voicemail identical to the all of the others. How dense was this woman? I answered the next phone call and requested that I be removed from the call list. After a momentary sound of fingers tapping on keys, she informed me that my name was out of their database and apologized for the inconvenience.
But the calls did not stop.
Once a day, around the same time, and never from the same phone number. It became routine to simply ignore the call and delete the message without listening to it. Some quick research online yielded that these relentless solicitations were not uncommon, and on rare occasions have resulted in legal action. It seemed a bit much to me.
It had gone on for some time before I stumbled upon the emails. As was common practice when signing up for something I generally felt apathetic about, I used a junk email account normally reserved for password retrieval and spam. For every call, they had sent me five emails each titled “Sorry we missed you!” and each signed simply by “Vicky”.
It wasn’t until that point that I realized just how long these calls had been going on. What organization that relies on charity has the amount of resources needed to bother people this much? It felt entirely creepy. I decided to deactivate my email account.
When my phone rang the next day I could have sworn the caller I.D. read “mom”. But when I answered it was the Red Cross again. Vicky. In shock I hung up and checked my incoming call list, relieved to find it was just the most recent in a long list of random numbers. It felt so real though. Too real. I called my mother just to be sure.
That evening I sat and weighed my options. The calls needed to stop but any action beyond doing what I had already seemed like overkill relative to the inconvenience. I could threaten Vicky with the police but if the calls continued, would I really call the cops on the Red Cross? Changing my number seemed equally absurd. In the end I decided to swallow my pride. I dialed the last number that she had called me from and waited for Vicky’s false politeness to flood my ears.
Coincidentally there was a blood mobile set-up in a Wal-Mart parking lot not too far from where I lived. She set me up with an appointment and thanked me profusely for “saving lives”, even going as far as calling me an “angel”. For some reason, that word gave me chills. Even if going only made the calls go away for a few months, it was worth it. It would at least afford me some sanity so I could find a more permanent solution.
As I pulled into the parking lot I glanced down at my watch. I had arrived fifteen minutes early, as if going to a job interview. I had demanded to be the first appointment, which to my dismay had been seven in the morning. As a consequence the lot was horrendously abandoned. I parked my car and made my way to the front door of the bus. It looked identical to the one I had been in before (it could have even been the same one). Before I could knock, the door folded open and a short, chubby man with glasses popped his head out. “Seven?” The suddenness had stolen my speech. I only nodded. “You’re early but that’s ok. Come on in and have a seat wherever you’d like”.
The bus was set up for multiple people, eight from my count. So I found the idea that it was only me here unsettling. I immediately regretted the frustration that made me insist on being here so ungodly early. As soon as I sat down the man reached around me and strapped me to the seat. I shot him and uneasy glance which he responded to with an awful, nasally laugh. “It’s to keep you from falling out if you pass out. You know, safety precaution.”
“Is this new? I don’t remember this at all”
“Yes it’s new, we wouldn’t want you bumping that head of yours”
The man was mostly concealed behind a white lab coat. He wore a visor that reminded me of one that a banker would wear in those old westerns. Whenever he leaned in too close you could smell something awful. Once he laughed I could see why. Had the man ever brushed his teeth?
He swabbed my arm with alcohol and swiftly inserted the needle. I watched as my blood worked it’s way down the tube, below my chair. Then something occurred to me. “Don’t you need information from me? Like if I have any tattoos or if I have traveled to Africa or something? What if I’m not healthy enough to give?”
“With men your age we don’t worry too much after testing the first time. I’ll get all of your information afterwards”.
Something didn’t seem right with that. Did he forget and was covering his tracks? I rested my head back and let it go. Why make something out of nothing. I felt fine.
After a couple of minutes he came back over and adjusted something underneath my seat. As he stood up he noticed the scar on my other arm. “What happened to your arm?” “Biking accident when I was really young”. He focused on it for a moment, as if taking in every detail. Finally he responded, “Oh that’s too bad…too too bad”.
The man continued to pace the aisle, occasionally stopping to do something under my chair. Eventually I started to feel nauseous. How long had it been? I looked down for my watch and it was missing. Had I taken it off? Did I forget it today? I frantically retraced my steps, unable to come to a definite conclusion. Had he taken it? I couldn’t just accuse him of swiping a $10 watch. I asked him for the time and he shrugged saying he wasn’t sure.
I felt so tired.
He knelt down again and this time I craned my neck to see what he was doing. I watched in horror as I realized what was happening. He was switching a full bag with an empty one, every time. My heart started to race. How many? How many bags has he filled with my blood? I called out to him, surprised at the amount of effort it took. “Aren’t we done yet?” He turned and smiled. “You have a rare blood type and usually in a case like this, when the donor is healthy enough, we take a double donation”.
I knew my blood type…and he was lying.
With all of my effort I reached down to pull the strap loose. I don’t know how it had happened so quickly. I didn’t have enough strength to undo a Velcro strap. He watched me struggle for a moment before walking over to me and seizing my other arm. I screamed but it did not make him hesitate for a second.
“We need to get some fluids in you. You do not look well at all”.
He slid another needle quickly beneath the skin of my other arm. For a brief moment I thought everything might be ok. But after watching my blood fill the empty tube I accepted what was happening. He was bleeding me dry.
My breathing was becoming labored. I had lost so much energy that every attempt to call for help was stifled to a whimper. Finally I begged through a whisper “Please, please don’t do this”. He just retorted with a chuckle. I was going to die here.
My eyes struggled to stay open as I clung to consciousness, to life. I heard a knock on the door behind me and I tried to yell, but nothing came out. Then I heard the door open and a familiar voice rang through.
“Are you nearly finished?”
“Yes, we can take the rest later”
“Anything I should know?”
“Yes, there is some significant scar tissue on his left arm. The skin will have to be processed”
“That’s fine, a little one can use it”
Credit To – Nick