Updated: Jan 27
For the first time ever, I made an appointment to give blood. I have no idea why it took me so long to get my name down. It had been on my list of things to do but I just never got round to it. Maybe, deep down, I was a bit scared.
Now, before you all write to me to either comment what a hero I was for signing up or what a procrastinator I was for not doing it before , then you should know this: I am telling you about my procrastinating heroics now only as an excuse to segue into a funny story about giving blood.
I will also point out that because of this tendency to procrastinate, it will not be so much a segue – ‘a transition, without interruption, from one subject to another’ – but more of a Segway – ‘something that goes off in different directions before finally reaching its destination’.
A Segway because you can’t write a piece about giving blood without putting in this gem from Tony Hancock’s ‘The Blood Donor’.
Doctor: Where are you going?
Hancock: To have my tea and biscuits.
Doctor: I thought you came here to give some of your blood!
Hancock: You've just had it.
Doctor: But this is just a smear!
Hancock: It may be just a smear to you, mate, but it's life and death to some poor wretch!
There is humour here which plays on the character’s stress and worry. It is obviously his first time and he’s very nervous about giving blood. That is understandable. So am I. Is it fair, though, to make comedy out of a stressful situation such as this? Of course it is. It breaks the tension and can be a distraction, as my wife, Ang, found out at an encounter she had with the phlebotomist (or legalised vampire as Hancock called the doctor in the sketch).
When Ang went in for her appointment, she explained to the phlebotomist (can I call her ‘nurse’?) that getting blood out of her had proved to be problematic in the past. The nurse smiled and assured her that she came across many types of bleeders, good and bad. She then went on to explain that the most difficult appointment she had ever had was with a patient who only had one arm. She knew in advance that he only had one arm and this concerned her greatly because, in most circumstances, if they had trouble getting blood from one arm, they could always try the other. The nurse was quite nervous by the time he came in and sat down because she had writ large in her head, and couldn’t get out, a phrase she always used automatically when faced with a bad bleeder, which was to say: ‘Oh, never mind. Let’s try the other arm.’
Fortunately for her, a good sample was obtained first time from the usual place in the arm, in the vein that runs along the inside joint on the other side of the elbow. She breathed a sigh of relief and readied herself to extract the needle, sort out the sample and tidy up. Putting the patient’s comfort first, as always, she had a piece of cotton pad ready to put on the wound to stem the bleeding. To fully appreciate what happened next, you have to imagine yourself as the patient, a one-armed patient, remember. The nurse pressed the cotton pad to the wound and begun to turn away to get the tape so she could secure the pad, a job that needed her two hands. Mindful that the pressure should continue to be applied, she did what she always did automatically which was to point at the pad and say (to the one armed patient), ‘Hold that, please.’
If you’re still unsure what has happened here, mark that point where your left arm bends with a felt tip, put a damp cloth in your left hand, sit on your right hand and then try and wipe the felt tip off. It’s no easier if you’re right handed... believe me, I’ve tried. (Incidentally, I can’t wriggle my ears either).
It occurred to me that this scenario would have made a great Peter Cook and Dudley Moore sketch. That statement may be true or it may just be a convenient way to finish this blog by quoting from one of their actual sketches which concerned a different one-limbed issue. In this case, Mr Spiggot, a man with one leg, is auditioning for the part of Tarzan. The agent, in an attempt to persuade him he may not be quite suitable, says the following:
‘I've got nothing against your right leg. The trouble is — neither have you.’
So what have we learned from this? Possibly nothing. But I have managed to squeeze in two of my favourite ever comedy quotes into one blog.