Blood Donation

I gave blood yesterday. I don’t do it often enough, but I try. I got the guilt call from the Puget Sound Blood Center the night before. As soon as “PSBC” comes up on my phone, the only question is who it’s for – me or my husband. A friendly voice starts, “Hello! May I speak to Hilary Meyerson?” I was making dinner and doing about ten things at once. I also knew my week was crazy, as I’m packing for a trip, trying to finish a freelance job and sew a heron costume, all by Friday, so I cut off the spiel before she starts. “Are you at the 3-day emergency supply?” Pause. “Yes. Can you come in tomorrow?” she asks.

Yes. Yes I can. Because local hospitals only have 3 days left of my type of blood and somebody needs it more than I do. Plus, I’ll get a cookie.

I took the first appointment, and was there when the doors opened, myself and a bunch of other donors milling around the door when they unlocked it. We all grab our clipboards to fill out the usual questions regarding tattoos, sex with hookers, travel to unstable countries and pregnancy and hand it to the volunteer, who is now under siege by the rush. I check out my fellow donors. The punk rock chick behind me, with braces on, gives her birthdate as the exact day I graduated from college. She tells me, “I got the guilt email. How about you?” “Phone call,” I answer. The bald man next to me nods and points to himself – he got the call too. There are six of us – all got a call or email the day before. One is giving platelets, and one is giving “double reds” a slightly longer process which allows a single donation to be split into two transfusions. While we’re waiting, a guy from the oil change place down the street (he was wearing his uniform, with his name embroidered on a patch) comes in. He doesn’t have an appointment, but he’s on his way to work and he has time, can they take him? No, they are full now, but they have openings at 3. He says he’ll come back after his shift.

I’m looking at my watch, because I’m on the clock, but I already feel better. About life, society, people. The news is full of crap stories about the world going to H-E-double hockey sticks, yet here are a bunch of people who are showing up just to do some good. All ages, all walks of life. I felt the same way about jury duty. Turns out, there are a lot of good people out there. It’s enough to make you want to start holding hands and  singing Kum-ba-ya.

My husband inspired me to give blood. He’s negative. Like A neg. It’s rarer than my universal donor O+ and they call him alot. He gives every 60 days and the techs swoon when they see him coming with his dreamy popped veins just begging for a needle. He has a demanding job that requires his presence – yet he makes time for this. I chided him once about how he couldn’t attend a school event or meet me for lunch yet when he gets the call he cancels his meeting, clears his schedule and gets himself to a donation center. He said, “You do lots of volunteer things. Political campaigns, school stuff, the community. This is one thing that I can do. I have to do SOMETHING that gives back.” I was duly chastened. And I made my next appointment.

I’m turned away occasionally. I have freakishly low blood pressure and sometimes they can’t find a pulse and they have concerns about taking blood from corpses. A tech once told me, “Can you hold on here? I need to get someone else. I’m not sure you’re alive.” But yesterday I was a respectable 80/60 and cleared to give. A stick, a pinch and three games of Sudoku on my phone later, and I’m a pint lower.

My favorite part: I’m “helped” to the canteen i.e. the cookie and juice table, by a volunteer. She’s approximately 117 years old. I’m holding her up. She’s very sweet and deaf as a post. She bellows at me, asking what I want to drink and I yell back a V8 would be great. She gets it and goes back to reading her Danielle Steele novel. After a few minutes, she looks up, surprised to see me, and bellows again what can she get me? I tell her I’m good, she’s already gotten me something, and she goes back to her book. This happens two more times. But I love that this lady gets herself up and gets her bony ass down to the blood center to volunteer. How great is that? I hope when I’m her age I’m bellowing about people and doling out cookies. There are worse things. Sometimes the volunteers are sulky teenagers. Last time, it was two high school girls who sullenly slung me an OJ. “Mandatory community service for graduation,” one told me glumly, sporting her private high school sweatshirt. Good, I thought. It’s good for them to see who comes through here. There are worse things.

While I eat my cookie and drink my juice, I read the info sheet on who is getting my blood. Trauma victims, natch. But lots of others you don’t think about. Kids with leukemia. They need a lot. A heart surgery patient uses a ton. Burn victims. Organ transplants. Women after childbirth. There is definitely time in my day to do this.

So that was that. I finished my snack, got the instructions to drink lots of fluids and left, with a cool purple arm wrap. Other donors were arriving.  Old, young, pretty, not-so-pretty, impatient, serene. All there to help unknown strangers. I felt pretty good about world when I left. Plus I got a cookie.


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