I’m a tough stick.” I always warn anyone drawing my blood that it won’t be easy. It rarely is. Today, I tried to lessen their pain (and mine) by making it as easy as possible for them. I made sure that I was well-hydrated and that I ate a good breakfast. I picked an early appointment so flaking out was not an option. I’m finally not anemic, and I checked all the other boxes to be eligible to donate blood. It was time to make a payment on this non-repayable debt. You see, a blood donation saved my life. Let me tell you a story.
In 2003, I sat in my gynecologist’s office for what was to be a routine exam. I was devastated when my doctor told me, matter-of-factly, and without realizing the possibility that she was delivering earth-shattering, soul-crushing news, that it would be extremely difficult if not impossible for me to bear children. I’m sure she went on to say why, but I had stopped listening at that point. I was the one that wrote letters to my future children, even when I was a child myself. The whole trajectory of my dreams and goals was based on becoming “mama” to four little people.
I had weight-loss surgery (RNY) later that year. Fast-forward three more years, and I was the new mama of a beautiful, deep-dimpled, bundle of baby boy joy!
Life was good. And it was overwhelming at the same time. I experienced a love that I cannot articulate and could not understand until I held him in my arms. I also had to make sure he was fed, went to his doctor appointments, learn what his cries meant, and sleep a few hours at a time, all while managing the pain that comes with a C-section.
I didn’t think twice about taking the medicine that I was prescribed at hospital discharge. As any good bariatric patient would, I told them that my surgeon said I should avoid NSAIDs. I even had a fancy red bracelet in the hospital that read “Allergy: NSAIDs.” Hindsight tells me that I should have questioned the 800mg ibuprofen that I was given to control the pain. But I didn’t. And I suffered the consequences as it all went downhill.
My kid is almost sixteen years old now, so some details are fuzzy. I do remember calling my OB’s office to tell her I couldn’t eat anything and that I had lost 16 pounds in a week. She told me to enjoy the weight loss.
Enjoy the weight loss.
I cannot nourish myself so I cannot nourish my baby (whom I tried to breastfeed but couldn’t). A few days later, after noticing that my long-awaited poop was black, I called, begged for, and got an appointment with my internal medicine doctor. It turns out I had a bleeding ulcer.
I spent the next five days in the hospital. These were some of the roughest days of my life. I went from never leaving my baby’s side for more than a few minutes to seeing him for only a few minutes a day. I had to have my blood drawn every few hours to test my iron levels. Did I mention that I’m a hard stick? I am still working on forgiving the woman who decided that it was necessary to do an arterial blood draw. That ?#@$ hurts!
I received five units of blood. Because of someone’s selfless act, I can raise my son into the smart, handsome, hilarious young man he is becoming. And I was able to have his also deep-dimpled little sister a year and a half later. As it turns out, two little people was the perfect number for me, not four.
So, even though I hate to be stuck, I give blood. I hope that it has a positive impact on the recipients and that they go on to be donors if they can, so that this gift will keep on giving. I also hope that writing this article encourages someone to start giving blood.
I also donated because I liked the free t-shirt.
- Be your own advocate. Don't be dismissed when you KNOW something is WRONG wrong with your body. You've been living in it. You know it.
- NSAIDs sensitivity is real. That NSAIDs thing is serious. Know what the most common NSAIDs are so you know when to ask questions or insist on alternate treatment.
- Blood donation saves lives. I'm living proof.
American Red Cross Blood Services
World Health Organization Blood Donation FAQ