Tuesday, January 17, 2006
She pulled up in front of the building and parallel parked. She glances out the corner of her eye, bringing the aging building into full focus…trash strewn about, the smokers stationed right outside the front door. Definitely not in the better part of downtown. She takes a deep breath, and heads for the door of the plasma center. She enters the building, signs in, and settles down for a long wait.
Someone had told her about plasma centers. For those of you who haven’t got a clue, they are clinics that pay individuals to donate white blood cells (plasma). White blood cells are replenished much more quickly than the red – one can only donate whole blood once every six weeks, but one can donate plasma twice per week. Now, plasma centers in early 1980’s were not what they are now. There was no blood screening, the clinics were frequented by alcoholics, drug addicts, and homeless people, and nearly all were men. Definitely not a fun place for a young single woman to be. But a necessary evil, if she were to gain money for food. She just couldn’t keep going without – her clothes were, quite simply, hanging on – or more precisely off – her.
The clinic did conduct an initial ‘physical’ that was basically checking heart, lungs, eyes, height and weight. She suffered through the physical with a doddering physician way past retirement age, until the point when he asked her to step on the scale. You hop on the scale and weigh yourself while I complete your chart, OK honey? She steps up to the scale, slides the counterweights, and reads off the weight: 97 pounds. No honey, that can’t be right…she has his attention now and he walks over to weigh her correctly—after all, she must be doing it wrong. That is right. Honey, you can’t donate today, you have to weight at least 110 pounds to donate. She looks at him and says nothing. Just stares, empty eyed. She’s too tired, too hungry, to argue. And she leaves empty handed. The ultimate irony – she can’t donate plasma to get money for food because she’s underweight from going without food and giving hers to her son.
An irony worthy of 'MASH humor.' Most definitely.