The hospital is always calling us. I don’t freak out anymore when I see their name on our caller ID. They’re just calling us for blood.
Jason has O-negative blood, so they love him. That’s the Universal Donor type. Any and everybody can have that kind of blood. “O” means there’s no A or B factor, and Negative means there is no Rh factor. So basically his blood is missing a whole lot of stuff. Stuff the rest of us have in different combinations, and that if we mix them wrong, we kind of die. It’s not like just substituting baking soda for baking powder in cookies. It’s got to be right. That’s why in emergencies they just start pouring O-negative into people who are bleeding everywhere. That’s why they want so much of Jason’s blood. There are plenty of people bleeding everywhere. And he tolerates giving it just fine. An added bonus: he is a baby donor, which means he’s never had certain common viruses that leave antibodies behind that babies shouldn’t have. He’s just an all-round swell guy—and he’s willing to share.
His career as a donor started back when the babies were born. Spencer and Pierce were not making good progress in the NICU. Every time they were given milk, their bellies blew up. It meant they couldn’t get off IVs and start to bottle feed like normal babies. The neonatologist decided they both needed blood transfusions. Their hematocrit counts were down from lab tests (taking out a cc here, a cc there—it adds up when your blood volume is less than a Short at Starbucks) and so the perfusion to their guts wasn’t good enough for them to work properly. I didn’t want them putting just anybody’s blood into them if we could avoid it, so Jason went to get screened to see if they could use his. And in the process, a new Superman Baby Donor was discovered. Since then, the hospitals have been fighting over him, calling every six weeks for him to come and help fill their refrigerators.
One day when the kids were in high school the family went to give together, but like Barney Fife back in Mayberry in “Barney’s Physical” (Season 5, Episode 2), Spencer was underweight, so he couldn’t donate. Even if he wore heavy chains [like Barney did] to make weight. But Charles scored. Like his dad, he also has O-negative, which works out really well for him, because he’s a driven, competitive kind of guy. He won the Golden Ticket. Now he’s on his way to becoming a hot commodity up at his local blood bank. Molly got a call the other day because they needed her B-negative blood, but she had a cold. Pierce is B-positive like I am. B-positive. It has a nice ring, doesn’t it? I’m glad it sounds nice, because that’s about all it’s good for in my case.
I tried to give. Once. It didn’t go so well. After they drained me, every time I sat up, the black spots rushed in and the room disappeared. Finally, after extra brownies and juice, we all thought I was ready to go. They released me and I was in the elevator going back down to the main floor. The elevator kept shifting as my brain tried to adjust to the lower blood flow. The doors opened and I stumbled out, trying to stay conscious. No way on God’s green [and germy] earth was I going to let my face land on that filthy, bacteria- and virus-infested floor of the hospital. No. Way.
Across the lobby, a waiting area vanished then reappeared in my vision. I would make it to those chairs. I had to. I don’t think I took a straight path, but I fixed on that target and aimed right for those seats. They warbled and faded in and out, and sometimes moved away like the trick when a bully snatches candy back from a little kid. But I pressed on, on sheer willpower, and got myself to those chairs. I wasn’t upright when I dove for them the last ten feet, but my face never touched that nasty floor.
When I came to, lying across three chairs, a pharmacist was asking me if I was all right. Clearly I wasn’t, but that’s a universal conversation starter when someone appears to be unconscious. He called the blood bank. They came with a wheelchair and retrieved me. Back upstairs, they tried to slap me back to an alert state, but I’d have none of it. After hours, they finally just called Jason at work and told him I wasn’t cooperating and to please come get me. (Actually, they were quite nice—as far as I can remember.) Since I had the car with me at the hospital, Jason had to catch a ride with a co-worker. Once he got me, I couldn’t even tell him where the car was, so he had to search the parking lot to find it. I decided after that, I wasn’t a good candidate for giving blood.
When I was in the hospital on bedrest pre-delivery, Cyndi donated for me. We are both B-positive. I have it written in a journal that I’d heard it was hard on her. I didn’t appreciate at the time what that meant. But knowing how much she is like me—both in appearance, laughter, and physical reactions and health—I now know that “hard on her” must have meant that she too might have nearly kissed that disgusting hospital floor. I owe her more than the usual brownies and juice for that one. I realize now that I in fact probably owe her my firstborn. Well, at least I know she and Spencer get along just fine. It should work out okay.
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