Barbie Attempts to Give Blood

Blood. It is a little icky and I don’t really want to see it spurting out of an open wound, but I am also not going to faint at the sight of a cut or a needle.  Recently, the nurse at the consulate organized a blood drive and after advertising it in my Panda Post, I figured I’d better support the cause and go donate some of my own oozy, red fluid.

I had good intentions. I would like to make that very clear. Good intentions.

It started with me skittering out of a meeting and running back to my office to grab my ID, I went out to the alley where the blood bus was located. (Yes. This is legit. The donation was taking place in a bus. The bus was parked in the alley. It’s all good…) After filling in my official government form acknowledging that I do not have a communicable disease, that I have not taken aspirin in the last week, have not donated blood in the last six months and I am not currently (or within three days on either side) menstruating, I was allowed to enter the van.

Upon arrival in the van, I was taken to a table where a nurse pricked my finger and then milked blood from the tip to put on a coded chart. She determined that I had type O blood, which was actually great information to have. You see, my whole life, I had been told that I was A-positive. Then, when Thad and I  were doing our medical forms for the Foreign Service, we had to have blood tests and one came back A-positive and one came back O. Thad’s paper said he was the A-positive, but I was convinced they must have mixed them up, because I had always been told that was my blood type and he didn’t know his, so I thought it could have been a simple data-entry mistake. (Plus, as a total over-achiever when it comes to school stuff, being A-positive would have fit with my nerd-like eagerness to always have the best score.) Now I know. I’m O.

O is the universal donor though, so I was more ready than ever to hop in to that chair and do a little service for my fellow Chengdu-ers. (Chengdu-ites? Chengdu-ans? Chengdu-ren. That’s the one!)

As I was headed in, Thad was headed out with his dress-shirt sleeve rolled up, his elbow and surrounding eight inches of arm thickly swabbed in iodine and a Band-Aid covered cotton swab smack in the middle. He also had a beautifully decorated pink box with his parting gift- a ceramic bowl. I guess giving blood does pay!  As a successful donor, he wished me luck and headed up to the CLO Lounge to enjoy some cookies and juice while I got ready to make my deposit in the blood bank.

With his chair empty, I made my way to the back of the bus (just like all the cool kids!) where I handed over my paperwork, yet again, and settled in for the bloodletting.

At this point in the story, it might be good if I let you in on a rather pertinent piece of information- I’ve never given blood before! You see, when I am not excluded by travel to various countries, the nurses take one look at my arms and send me packing. I apparently have no blood veins. This has become an issue each and every time I have to have blood drawn for tests. In the past, I’ve had phlebotomists go with the insert-needle-and-poke-around method, I’ve had them fiddle with my feet in hopes of finding a good vein and most often, I’ve had them call in the head-honcho to do the poking. My veins are just not easy to access.

But, back to the blood van in the alley.

After the nurse put the tourniquet on my arm and got exactly zero veins to pop, she proceeded to add a second tourniquet and then employ the slapping-the-patient’s-arm method. After the double-tourniquet and slapping got us nowhere, she repeated the same process on my right arm. Again, no luck. At this point, another nurse, between donors, joined the fun. She decided to give it a shot and it was back to the left arm. After another left and right check with no better results, the nurses were stumped.  This entire process involved a lot, a whole lot, of arm slapping!

One of the Chinese staff members who was giving blood at the same time leaned over and asked what was going on. When I told her they couldn’t find a vein, she looked at me very seriously and said, “But your arms are so white. How can they not see them?”  Gee, thanks!

After a third round of trying and failing to find a vein, a mini-conference of the three nurses was convened. None of them wanted to be the one to tell me it wasn’t going to happen, so after watching them huddle and discuss, when one came back, I just looked at her and said, “Should I just go?” She smiled and nodded yes, sending me on my way.

Blood donation failure.

The thing is, after talking to Thad, I think I am okay with the way it worked out. Apparently, the needles being used to draw blood could have doubled as irrigation siphons in an emergency.

Blood donation wasn’t a total loss though. I may not have contributed to my local community and I definitely didn’t come home with a flowered ceramic bowl, but I did walk away humming my favorite Aqua tune. You see, as I waited for the first finger-pricking to determine my blood type, the nurses’ assistants called me over to tell me they thought I looked like Barbie! Blonde hair and blue eyes go a long ways in western China.  Barbie may be living a life in plastic, but she is fantastic!

Come on Barbie, let’s go party!

From Coloring Books to Formals

While I had a Barbie or two as a little girl, I never really got into dressing them up in an array of outfits and using them to put on pint-sized fashion shows. Those pointy little fingers that caught on every shirt and the geriatric, unbending knees that made putting on a cute pair of pants nearly impossible put me off on the idea of doll dress-up.  Rather, my Barbie usually ended up colored coordinating with the black and purple tractor-trailer into which she was crammed, inflexible limbs and all. Who needs to haul big machinery with a semi-truck when Barbie is awaiting a ride?

Maybe I didn’t learn much about clothes and fashion from Barbie, but I wasn’t immune to the lure of pretty colors and matching accessories. I can remember picking out coloring books as a little girl, thumbing through whatever selection was available, looking for the one with the most pictures of girls in dresses. The fancier and more elaborate the dress, the better! Coloring would commence by selecting a color palate to be used for the entire outfit. If I went with pinks, I would pull every shade of pink from my Crayola 64-count box (that’s right, the one with the built-in sharpener!) and line them up from lightest to darkest. If I elected to go with a purple theme, I would do the same with every shade of violet available. This worked for any theme, from blue to orange, but I tended to lean towards the pinks and purples with an occasional blue outfit thrown in here or there. I would then mix in the metallic colors for accents to go along with whatever color family I had selected.  I ended up with perfectly coordinated outfits that would make even Joan Rivers stand speechless. (Her lack of comments could possibly be blamed on an excess of Botox and plastic surgery, but I’d rather chalk it up to the outstanding fashion-sense of my seven year old self.)

Now, with no coloring book in sight, it is time to flex those fashion muscles once more. Being in need of a formal dress to take to China, it was off to the bridal shop to see what I could find. I met Erin out in Rockville this afternoon, where we searched the racks for a dress to travel the world. The requirements were pretty simple:

*Floor-length formal

*Not black

*Be able to ship not only to China, but on to the next posting, without being ruined

*Not look like a bridesmaid dress

I went into the shop with a couple of dresses in mind. (You will remember the pretty pink one I loved from “The Intimidation of Sparkles and Baubles.”) Of course, after riding the Metro for an hour and then having a strange and rather uncomfortable encounter with a homeless man on the walk to the store, they didn’t have either of the dresses that I wanted to look at in stock. (They did tell me I was welcome to go out to Baltimore, where both were available! Thanks, but the Metro doesn’t go there.)  After having a moment of grumpiness, Erin arrived to save me from my slump. She quickly convinced me to try on other dresses while we were there, saying that she would take me to Baltimore one weekend if we didn’t find anything we liked. With that in mind, I passed on the cotton candy creation that the dress consultant told me was “just like” the one I had wanted to look at. (No. No it wasn’t.) Her other pulls were just as lacking, so Erin and I opted to hit the racks ourselves.

As we pulled a couple of promising gowns, a different sales consultant saw us going through the dresses ourselves and came over to check on us. She promptly asked us if we were looking for prom dresses. Erin and I grinned as we said that no, we were just looking for a formal that would be appropriate for State Department functions. Then, we sneaked behind a rack and giggled as we high-fived. This was better than being carded to get in a bar! Prom?!?! Take the age I went to prom and double it and you’re much closer to reality.

After trying on a series of long dresses, Erin and I narrowed down the options to two. (I also tried on a bunch of short cocktail dresses, one of which I loved, but eventually decided I didn’t want to spend the money to get both a long formal and a short cocktail dress.) One dress was fitted and had a more classical style to it. It fit like a glove (in a size 4, thank you very much!) and would be easy to wear to multiple occasions. The store only had it in black, but could order it in a variety of jewel-toned colors. The other dress was more flow-y on the bottom and was a lot of fun. It came in a variety of sherbet colors, but was so unique that it would be hard to recycle for various events. After going through the pros and cons and possible accessorizing options for each dress, I settled on the slimmer silhouetted dress, but ordered it in “sangria,” which is a rich raspberry/purple color.

Dear ol’ Barbie may still be jammed in the back of a tractor trailer, hidden in a pile of dump trucks and Rainbow Brights (dolls and trucks went together like peanut butter and jelly in my young imagination) but the love of pretty colors and clothes has not been smothered by subsequent years of school and work nowhere near the world of fashion.  I may be in the middle of a move from Idaho to Washington DC to Chengdu, China, but I am determined to take the pretty with me!

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