I went to give blood yesterday for the first time in my life because I'd heard it was needed for the people injured in Tahrir Square. My friends Ahmed and Moudy took me to the hospital; I later found out they both have issues with blood and needles. I can understand why - throughout the entire process I had to keep my head averted to not see what was going on.
So the three of us arrived at the blood bank and were greeted by a friendly receptionist, who sat with us while we filled out all my information. She asked routine questions - had I given blood before, did I have any chronic health conditions, was I on any regular medication, etc. All pretty standard.
Then she took me through to see a doctor, a lot less friendly. Severe in look and manner, she asked her routine follow-up questions with all the warmth and understanding of a prison warden.
"Do you take any medication on a regular basis?"
"Do you drink alcohol?"
"When did you last drink alcohol?"
"24 hours ago." (not at the time planning to give blood the next day)
"Is this a problem?"
"No." (to Ahmed, standing next to me) "Is she drunk?"
(Ahmed and me, in simultaneous outrage) "No!"
"Hmmmm. Do you have multiple sexual partners?"
"All right." (once again turning to Ahmed) "She's definitely not drunk?"
Clearly this woman had the measure of me.
Two anaemia tests later - because poor circulation and fear equal icicle hands from which it is difficult to extract the drops of blood needed for an anaemia test and so a ridiculous dance to get the blood circulating was performed in the examining room of this hospital to the amusement of the boys and the (continued) disapproval of the doctor, who by this point must have decided that I was from another planet - and we were led into another room to actually give blood.
Anyone who's thinking of doing this, be reassured that it's not as unpleasant a process as you think it will be. There's a level of discomfort but not actual pain. Having someone there to distract you helps a lot and Ahmed cleverly chose a topic of conversation that he knew would take my mind off everything else: salsa.
The whole thing was over in 10-15 minutes and afterwards I was given some juice to get my blood sugar levels up, I rested for a few minutes and was free to go. We didn't wish the sour-faced doctor goodbye.