It is finished.

After 20 years of avoiding blood donation — and after a 10-day precautionary delay due to illness — I filled a pint bag on Thursday, March 14, 2019.

The experience itself was a mixed bag. (GET IT!?!?)

The fine phlebotomists at Vitalant — formerly Central Blood Bank, as some leftover signage reminded — had an air of mundane routine about them. I’m not complaining; that proved quite comforting for a newbie like myself.

Just a normal day. Yawn. When’s lunch?

A totally normal kitchenette … nothing ominous around the corner.

Altruism, engage!

Also, I was fortunate to donate next to a woman who was willing to cheerily volley back some of my nervous banter during the whole ordeal. Ma’am, I forget your name, but you did a good thing.

OK, it was an ordeal for me because of my needle-phobia, but the process couldn’t have gone much smoother. As the technician forewarned, there was a slight burning sensation after my vein was punctured, but that faded after a few seconds.

Suppose it’d be really messy if I tried to leave now.

At least, I’m guessing that’s what happened. I didn’t watch the needle enter my arm or leave it; there was enough adrenaline pumping through my body to spare myself that view.

But I filled the pint bag in a little less 10 minutes, even quicker than I was told to expect! Am I actually … good … at this? Hey, they told me I had “nice veins,” so maybe I’ll turn pro.

On the guidance of the experts on hand, I lingered in my recliner for about 15 minutes. I was a bit lightheaded, so I dined on potato chips (for sodium) and ginger ale (for glucose).

I’m alive! And free snacks! Better not tell Lukas about that or he’ll want to join me for an encore.

The spoils. Also, what’s in that cooler back there???

I’m not sure my brief wobbliness was anything but my body coming down from the fight-or-flight mechanism, but it was real enough to give me pause about jumping right back in my car and driving home. Giddy with my achievement, I chatted with my new blood-drawing friends until I almost forgot what just happened.

“Oh, you moved here from D.C.? Cool, cool. Have any kids?”

About 20 minutes after the hypodermic demon left me, I was gone.

I’ll stand by my in-born resistance to punctured veins as a worthwhile defense mechanism, but I’ll also admit to some serious satisfaction when I glanced over at the dull-red fluid bulging the bag next to my chair.


That came from inside me. Wild.

How It Works!

How Do-Goodery Works

And per the friendly phlebotomist, that bag o’ blood could save up to three lives via red cells, white cells and platelets. (I’d like to think it counts for more since I didn’t enjoy the procedure at all. Call it the Anguish Bonus.)

Lastly, you might recall that I had planned to take along an accountability partner — my friend Alan — to make sure I followed through, but also to chronicle the event. Since I was again swamped at work due to the continued college hockey playoffs and a midweek lacrosse match thrown in for seasoning, I didn’t want to make Alan drive across Pittsburgh in the better-than-zero chance I couldn’t get there for my 1 p.m. appointment.

But get there I did … and I even managed to shoot a short video while that big, nasty needle was inches deep into my forearm. *Shudders*

I think the most cringe-y part of the experience was squeezing that rubber ball, knowing I was pumping my own blood out of my body.

Scaring Matt on Do-Goodery: Giving Blood

Matt Gajtka of takes on his second Scaring Matt challenge. A needle-phobe giving blood? He bites his lip and gives it hell anyway.

You’re welcome.

Actually, thank you. Without Do-Goodery and your support of it, I wouldn’t have been motivated to search for experiences that make my hair stand on end.

And I wouldn’t have saved a couple lives, either.

Next week: Could giving blood become a habit or is this a one-off? Am I ‘cured’ of my fear? We’ll talk next time as we wrap up this episode.