Blood drives and bucket lists

Photo: Rotary Global Network for Blood Donation. Not sure why the vampire capes were necessary.
Photo: Rotary Global Network for Blood Donation. Not sure why the vampire capes were necessary.

About a month ago, Jack saw a blood drive van and told me he wanted to donate – had been wanting too for a while, in fact – and now that he was seventeen he could do so without parental permission, which makes two whole things I didn’t know.

What he actually said was it was on his “bucket list.” I told him he and I had different understandings of the term, but then he told me another list item was traveling to all seven continents. So maybe he does get it and is just a weirdo.

I’m not totally surprised he’d include something altruistic on his list of things to do before he dies, but why not digging wells in Africa or something? Building a house? Letting someone poke around trying to find a vein is on a list I keep too. A list of things that make me woozy if I think about them too much. Heights are on that list. Cleaning toilets. Ebola.

It’s the needles. I have to turn my head when I get a shot at the doctor. I can’t watch my own kids get vaccinated. I can sit through a decapitation scene in a movie, but have to cover my eyes when someone pulls out a needle. Blech.

Just the act of writing this makes me feel a little lightheaded.

But I am also not going to be a wuss in front of my kid, so when we saw that blood drive van, I marched him right in there to donate. I was going to do it with him.

…And then marched right back out. We were in Korea at the time, and apparently there’s a thing if you’re from another country or something. Turns out we had to be on home turf to donate blood.

That was about six weeks ago. Since I was wavering back and forth about how much of a wuss I am, I half hoped I’d get away with my classic parenting strategy of waiting long enough my kid would forget he asked for something.

But there were reminders around every corner. There was a blood drive at the Y where he works, and then news about some sort of emergency blood shortage. So last week, I decided we were going to do it. I was going to help Jack cross one thing off his bucket list, and I was going to face my fears and throw in with him.

… After, of course, searching online for any possible reason I might be disqualified from giving. Just to be safe.

I was pretty thorough, but came up with nothing. None of the places I’ve traveled in the past year were a problem. Not even Houston. I didn’t have the flu. I haven’t been exposed to Zika or gotten a tattoo.

Nothing. Dammit.

Monday we went in to our local Red Cross office without an appointment. The place was hopping, and we had a little wait. We were given color-coded nametags to show we were first timers, and everyone thanked us profusely. We had attendants ask questions, take our blood pressure, and prick our fingers. Then we were each given a seat in a big recliner, and I turned my head as a really nice guy put a cuff on my arm and told me how my veins were really hard to find. He pulled out a packet of plastic bags and tubing and I asked if I was expected to fill every one of those bags. He laughed, and then I laughed like I was in on the joke.

I can’t go into more detail without passing out, except that it didn’t hurt and it took me about 8 minutes to fill up a bag. It took Jack about 6 minutes and 20 seconds.

Oh, yeah. He’s gloating.

I asked if anyone had set a record, because if this donor thing is some sort of competition, I could kind of get the point. My attendant said one high school kid filled up his bag in 3 minutes flat, which was pretty impressive.

“But then he got up from the chair and did a face plant, so I wouldn’t recommend going that route,” he said.

Sage advice.

Afterwards, Jack and I had cookies and juice while a volunteer told us about how she gave blood every eight weeks since she has a special blood type they use in pediatrics. She told us about her son, who was born with a defective heart and only lived a few hours, and then she told us about how she talks to high school students about giving blood because Jesus was nailed to the cross, and we nodded politely and munched on our cookies. I’m sure the proselytization wasn’t a sanctioned part of the whole process, but by that time I felt like I’d kind of conquered something big, so it wasn’t too much trouble to sit through a lecture on stigmata with my Oreos.

Afterwards, I asked Jack about the other things on his bucket list. He leaves for his exchange in about three weeks, so if there is stuff we could cross off together, we need to get to it or wait a while.

Turns out, the rest of his list includes experiences I haven’t any interest in sharing. I don’t care to drive a Lamborghini, get a spontaneous tattoo, or fight a large animal. It’s not because I’m scared or anything. I just don’t see hand-to-hand combat with a moose as a particularly bonding experience.

But I’ll probably be back to donate more blood in eight weeks or so. That wasn’t so bad.


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  1. Wow, I\’m so impressed with you and your son! What a good kid. I don\’t love needles either, but I should probably go donate some blood. It scares me to have them take that much blood outta me, but I could probably buck up. I should make a bucket list too, but I\’m sure fighting a large animal would not make the list, lol!!!

  2. I love this one. I have a 12 year old that is probably going to be overly idealistic when she gets older. Right now she doesn\’t like needles. The the point that she\’ll swing at anyone that even presents the possibility that she will need a shot. But give her a few years and an a healthy dose of puberty and you never know…

    I started giving blood when I was 17. I was working through the Red Cross First Aid program and I though I would get extra credit for opening a vein. It didn\’t work. I still passed all the course work but didn\’t get extra credit. The first time I gave blood it was very scary. Big needle, it looked like the diameter of a Twizzler! I was very afraid of needles at the time. I decided that this was something I *should* get used to. And my Father was always relaying bloody stories about his day at the office. So I clenched my teeth and allowed some bonehead with a very long twizzler sized needle shove it into my arm.

    I didn\’t Die.

    I gave blood consistently up through my first job.I only stopped when they told me that they couldn\’t take my my blood anymore due to my medications. It\’s definitely a bucket item. Give while you can.

    1. I never knew that, Bruce! Sorry you didn\’t get the extra credit. I have to be honest, I didn\’t look at the size of the needle, or anywhere in that direction when they were tying the rubber tube on and pushing around, trying to find a vein. Gah. It\’s not something on my bucket list, but I have the date marked on my calendar for a return visit.