In Character with Eileen Behnke
A conversation with an interesting Portlander
When Southwest Portland resident Eileen Behnke says this won't hurt a bit, you might consider asking, 'Hurt whom?' Behnke is a nurse phlebotomist and no, she doesn't perform brain surgery. That's a lobotomy, though Behnke says she has had the two confused.
Portland Tribune: So what do you do?
Eileen Behnke: I work for the Red Cross in collections. But it has nothing to do with money.
Tribune: Well, there's only two options, blood or money.
Behnke: I've been sticking needles in people since 1977.
Tribune: And enjoying it?
Behnke: High school kids are pretty entertaining. The kids get nervous and they tend to have more reactions. They break out in a sweat, they get hot all of a sudden, they feel faint.
Tribune: Ever have one actually faint?
Behnke: It's usually the big football players that faint. The little tiny cheerleaders don't. There was a high school boy that had a reaction, I leaned over him and said, 'Now you know what a hot flash feels like.'
Tribune: Can you spot a fainter when he walks in the door?
Behnke: No. It's usually because we've taken a pint of blood away and it's the body's way of reacting to that. We did have a couple of ROTC students at Oregon State faint from their finger sticks. We do a finger stick to get a drop of blood to test for iron and when they saw the blood they just fainted.
Tribune: One drop?
Behnke: One drop. So we never drew a pint of blood from either one.
Tribune: Oh, boy, the Duck fans are going to have a field day with this one. I'm just asking because of this year's record, but those guys weren't on the football team, were they?
Behnke: No. A lot of people who are really nervous will say, 'Don't tell me when you're going to poke me. Just do it.' Sometimes I'll tell them a joke to distract them.
Tribune: Such as?
Behnke: There were two little boys taking a test at school. One of the questions was 'Old McDonald had a …' One little boy leans over to the other little boy. 'I know Old McDonald had something and I can't remember what it was.' And the second little boy says, 'Everyone knows Old McDonald had a farm.' The first little boy says, 'That's right, how do you spell farm?' And the second little boy says, 'E-I-E-I-O.'
Tribune: It must be a tough stick if you need that long a joke for the distraction.
Behnke: Often it's someone else doing the stick and I'm telling the joke.
Tribune: Any other memorable donors?
Behnke: We have people who come and donate so they can get the cookies at the end.
Tribune: Wait a minute. They give up an hour of their time, they get a needle in their arm and before that one in their finger, just so they can get a cookie? Those must be really terrific cookies.
Behnke: I think in a few cases they might be someone who doesn't get enough to eat normally.
Tribune: Have you ever said to someone, 'This is going to hurt me more than it's going to hurt you?'
Behnke: No. I've told people it's not going to hurt me a bit.