I gave blood today. I haven't donated blood in ages. I had a relatively recent bad experience that led me to avoid it for years. But today, I decided to suck it up and do it again. And even though I'm still a bit lightheaded from the experience, it felt good. According to the woman at the donation site, I am considered a universal donor since I have O negative blood type. Only 6% of the population can claim this.
I went home and googled it and of course, what she told me is not entirely true. O negatives used to be considered universal donors (we can donate to Os, As, Bs, and ABs, both positive and negative) but now there are more sophisticated methods of matching blood types so that a donor's and recipient's blood can be more closely matched for compatibility. But my husband says that if a trauma patient comes into the ER, they automatically give him O negative blood since there's really not time to "type" him.
So, it's still mostly true and it doesn't matter much to me anyway. It just felt good to finally donate again.
I've donated blood many times in my life. Most of the time, it has gone just fine. But I have had a few bad experiences with blood donation. One time, I fainted. I literally stood up, attempted to approach the cookies and juice table, swooned, and fell on my doofa. Not pretty. Another time, after waiting in line forever, I was turned away because I was under 110 pounds (I wish I had that problem now!). And the last time I tried before today, I was turned away because within whatever time frame I had lived in Europe and could have possibly been exposed to mad cow disease.
It was that last time that did me in for the next five years. This was in 2002 and they turned me away because I had lived in Europe in the 80's---yes, the 1980's.
Here's the story. J was a small baby, maybe 5 or 6 months old and still nursing furiously. O would have been just about 2. We lived in Tucson at the time where it was always extremely hot and we were new to the area and still adjusting to the heat. Also, and this makes for a much better story, I had a navy blue car with no air conditioning (it's true, I swear) and anyone who's ever been to Phoenix or Tucson knows a dark colored car, especially one with no a/c, is not a good idea.
Anyway, I was listening to the radio and heard that all of southern Arizona was suffering a horrible blood shortage. They also said that the most important donors were those with O negative blood type, and since I knew I had O negative blood, I decided I ought to do my civic duty and go out and donate.
So I loaded up the kids and headed out. Back then, loading up the kids was no easy task for me. Yeah, yeah, I was more overwhelmed with motherhood than some, I'm sure, but still. I don't remember every detail of the story---it wasn't that traumatizing. But I'm sure it went something like this---
I looked up the location of the nearest blood donation center in the phone book. Then I dressed both girls, changed both of their diapers (yes, two in diapers at the same time), and nursed J. And then probably changed J's diaper again, because that's just the way it works, right?
Then I went out into the scorching heat and loaded the double jogger into the back of my car. I squirted down both car seats with a water bottle, carried the kids into the car, and buckled them in. We drove about 20 minutes, without air conditioning, to the nearest blood donation site, located at the mall. I parked, covered my windshield with a sun reflector, unloaded the double stroller, loaded each child into the stroller, and then covered their car seats with white towels that I always kept in the car. Then I pushed them to the site only to find that they were located on the 2nd floor and there were only stairs available where we stood. I hiked through the mall to find an elevator, took it up, and walked back to the donation site. Then I waited in line. And my kids? Well, J probably nursed again, I'm sure, and I probably spent a lot of energy trying to keep O from contaminating all of the colorful, plastic, sterile, blood-collecting supplies.
When it was finally my turn, a woman asked me a million questions while my children waited patiently (ha ha) in their stroller. When we got to the question about my time in Europe, she said I had been "deferred"---meaning, you may not give blood today. Deflated and upset, I pushed the stroller back to the elevator and then out to my car. I took each of the two kids out of the stroller, removed the white towels, spritzed their car seats with water, and buckled them in. I folded the stroller and loaded it into my car. Then drove the 20 minutes back to my house, in the heat with no a/c, and unloaded the kids (one of whom was now screaming to nurse again) and stroller from the car. We went back into the house having not accomplished a damn thing.
Not a damn thing. Sigh. The story of my life as a stay-at-home mom to two small children.
So that's why it took me about 5 years to get up the nerve to try again. And today, I accomplished something. A small thing, yes, but something.