Can you believe that one of the defining moments of my life, and probably of yours too, was ten years ago today? The New Beans didn’t exist back then, so I didn’t record this for posterity as a blog post. The ten year anniversary seems like a good time to put that right.
I had been hoping to bestow a gift upon all humankind for quite some time, but being a shift worker I had found it difficult to make a convenient booking. Finally, though, the stars aligned, and on Monday 22 April 2013, the sun was shining as I left my flat in the afternoon and took a couple of trains to Peckham Rye. My destination was a church hall just around the back of some shops near the station.
Inside I was greeted by friendly faces – grateful, no doubt, for the pint of warm charity I was about to deliver. A quick chat and a little sample with a needle were followed by a short wait on a plastic chair.
I was then shown to a bed where I made myself comfortable and directed my attention to the newspaper I’d brought, knowing that I wouldn’t want to watch the minor surgery happening on my left arm. A nurse inserted some sort of plumbing into my elbow and began pumping out the good stuff. After a few minutes I decided to look at it, felt immediately ill, and returned to examining my paper.
When the business was done I took myself off to a chair in the corner, where a number of other heroes were seated around a table. I helped myself to orange squash and a small packet of custard creams. They went down fine, but shortly afterwards all the words in the newspaper stopped making sense, so I folded it up and slotted it into my coat pocket, an action that was surprisingly difficult and took about four attempts.
Shortly after this I remember a kind voice telling me it was OK and to just stay still for a minute. The voice was coming to me from a great distance away in the darkness. Then the world sort of rushed back in, like I was in a bottle and a stopper had been pulled out, and I became aware that I was now lying down on a mat with screens being pulled around me and a small amount of vomit all over myself.
The nurses were very kind, propping my legs up and making sure I drank some water, but were also insistent that I should go away quite soon because they were closing. So I got unsteadily to my feet and made my way back to Peckham Rye station, where the platform was at the top of approximately a thousand steps. The ten minute wait for the train was too much for my legs so I slid down a pole and sat on the floor to wait for it.
It was rush hour now, and the train was packed to the gills with people heading home, meaning there were no seats and the inside was airless. I clung to a pole near the door, feeling increasingly bilious, and made it one whole stop to East Dulwich (a journey of three minutes) where I stepped gratefully off the train and immediately threw up again on the platform in front of large crowds of people. A small child, being hurriedly led away by his mother, helpfully shouted out “mummy, that man’s being sick”. I had eaten spaghetti for lunch before I went out, and I remember the spaghetti being returned to the platform more or less intact.
I don’t really remember the rest of the journey, which exists in my mind only as a series of bullet points. I decided the train was too dangerous, and for some reason thought a bus would be easier to handle, so I remember staggering out of the station and through various streets in East Dulwich to find a bus stop. I then took at least one bus, if not two, to Herne Hill, getting off to throw up before waiting for the next one. There must then have been more buses to reach the bottom of Gypsy Hill, where I remember getting off for one last chunder before deciding it would be easier just to walk the rest.
On arriving home – at the end of another fifteen minutes of walking and a climb up four flights of stairs – I had a pint of orange squash and immediately felt fine again.
Obviously, I decided never to repeat this reckless exercise, given the horrifying consequences I had experienced when trying to do something to help my fellow man. It would surprise me if anyone has ever managed to do it more than once without hospitalisation. But I remain proud of my contribution to the furtherance of humanity, and indeed to medical science, and trust that the world is, to this day, grateful for the one and only occasion on which I gave blood.
Here is the only picture evidence I have from that fateful day.