Friday, December 26, 2008

Kathleen's Christmas Story--A Major Award!

I finally got my gallon pin!

For somebody who's not big on blood sucking, letting or shedding, this is a big milestone, and I'm here to tell you, it hardly hurt at all.

My daughter and her husband got our Christmas Eve family blood donation tradition going several years ago. Clyde and I had been donating off and on long before--for me, it's been a private way to honor each of my parents' birthdays in December and June--but Elizabeth and John now rally the troops and make it a family event in honor of John's grandmother on December 24, which is also my parents' wedding anniversary. Elizabeth had to work this year, so she "gave at the office." (She actually went to the Memorial Blood downtown branch on over her lunch hour.) We usually have about a dozen people donating, followed by brunch at John's mom's home. It's nice to have company. You get to calm a little, tease a little, pat each other on the back, and celebrate family--past, present, and future--and do it all through blood. You know me--I love the symbolism!

Mind you, I don't like needles. Years back I did extended hospital, surgical, touch-and-go time with every vein in my arms, wrists and hands used for IVs until I was black and blue from shoulders to fingertips. A few years later Elizabeth burst into the world like a shrieking cannon ball, and I needed a blood transfusion. She loves to tell this story on blood-letting day. "And this is why Mom and I like to give back." Like she remembers.

Every once in a while over the years I've failed to make the cut for lack of iron, and last year I got a trainee who failed to strike red until the third try. I was quite pleasant about it, if I do say so. After all, I'm remembering Mama. "That's all right, honey, you've almost got it." This time out I didn't feel a thing until I got out of the chair, and then I regretted ignoring the drink plenty of water beforehand reminder. Especially when we have less than zero moisture in the air around here now. So I had a little case of the dizzies, but nothing a couple of bottles of juice and a slice of carrot cake with cream cheese frosting couldn't cure. Memorial Blood Center usually feeds well. And did you know that one pint of blood can save three lives?

So that's one of our cool holiday giving traditions. I love Lois's new tradition of recycled and homemade gifts. I love the role that traditions and memories play in our holidays. And stories. And storytellers. How about you?

Oh, and we followed brunch with a movie. Australia is the same as my blood type--A+

My thanks to Mint Kunkel for this fresh-from-the-camera photo.


Playground Monitor said...

For a long time I couldn't donate blood because I didn't weigh enough. Then came menopause and well, I weigh enough now. The first time I ever donated was right after 9/11. And not long after that they changed the rules and because I lived in Germany, I've been permanently deferred as a blood donor. :-( I think it's awesome you've made a family tradition out of it.

We had traditions when our boys were little, but they're out of the nest now. I guess we need to start some new ones, especially since there's a grandbaby in the mix now.

Hope everyone had a great Christmas and that Santa was good to you. He was quite generous at our house and everyone spent yesterday playing with their new "toys."


Kathleen Eagle said...

Marilyn, 9/11 got us our to donate, too. Also the bridge collapse in Minneapolis.

I didn't know the rule had been tightened that much on living overseas. There are so many questions, so many deferral reasons, that's why it's important for people who qualify to try to do it.

We had a lovely day with all the kids and grands together under our roof happily eating, visiting, napping, and playing.

Playground Monitor said...

The concern was over mad cow disease. But it's been 28 years since I moved back to the states and nothing funky has ever shown up in my blood work each year at my physical exam. These rules make it tough to keep up blood supplies here because we have a huge military base, an international research park, several universities and NASA, and amongst all those are loads of people who've been permanently deferred. My son was only 2 when we moved back to the states, but he falls under that deferrment as well.

Cindy said...

Yea for you and your family, Kathleen. I can't give blood because of medication I have to take for a chronic condition but I'm so grateful to everyone who goes that extra mile. I try to make up for it in other ways. Care packages to soldiers, gifts for the angel tree and for those hard to buy for people on my list, donations to a cause in their name.

Debra Dixon said...

Kathy-- Yay, you! Hubby is a 12 gallon donor. :) They call him every time he's eligible. He's 0- and cytomeglavirus (?) free so they take his blood straight to cancer patients and babies.

It's a very good thing!

Debra Dixon said...

Oh, I don't give blood because they have such a hard time with my veins. When they were giving me the IV antibiotics for the finger, they had to use a peds nurse and needle to achieve IV. (g)

Kylie said...

Good for you, Kathleen! I've given blood before but not often because I frequently have doctors cautioning me against it--low iron, low blood pressure blah blah blah. But occasionally when we have a major drive in town I give anyway. Hard to ignore such a great cause!

Michele Hauf said...

Yay, Kathleen, and your whole family! That's so cool. My hubby got the ten gallon pin a while back and now he's working towards 15 gallons. Like Deb's husband they call him as soon as he's able to give again, and he goes.
And like Deb I don't give because my veins , I've been told, roll. Can't catch one of those suckers with a needle without a lot of pain on my part. So when I have questions about blood (for my vamp books) I send them with the hubby to ask for me. :-)

Cool Xmas tradition!

Betina Krahn said...

Go Kathy! What a wonderful family tradition! I wish we could do the same. . . too many of us are ineligible donors. But what a great way to celebrate new life and new beginnings-- by donating "life" to others. It's one of the most spiritual and selfless things you could possibly do. Merry Christmas. . . and Happy holidays to your wonderful family!

Keri Ford said...

Congrats! Ever since I got pregnant and learned my I'm O-, I've wanted to give blood.

My veins are good and strong, but until my body gets straight and normal, I can't be giving anything away. And even then, I don't know if I can give with my meds.

Kathleen Eagle said...

Wow! Deb's and Michele's hubbies are major heroes! Imagine what 10, 12, 15(!) gallons looks like all in one place. I'm picturing the milk dept at the grocery store. 15 of those babies!

Clyde (like most American Indians) is 0+, universal donor, so they love him, too. He's had trouble on occasion with the dizzies, but it's because he peeks at the bag even though he knows it gives him the willies. He nearly passed out when Elizabeth was born. The dr (a friend of ours) told him to scrub up because they were short-handed. Now, Clyde's seen lots of blood (we ranched for 7 years among other things) but Elizabeth 'bout did him in. TMI? Anyhow, we have to remind him not to look.

Kathleen Eagle said...

Elizabeth has taken her donor role a step further by becoming a registered bone marrow donor donor. They really need minorities to do this, especially American Indians.

And here's the thing: Elizabeth has more chronic health issues than I can count, including fibromiagia (sp?) and migraines. Over the last year she's gone through a series of inter venous treatments at the Mayo Clinic for a huge (benign) tumor in her forearm. (It's working!) Elizabeth is way cool.

Estella said...

I have never been able to donate for medical reasons. My husband has donated enought for both of us--11 gallons.

Kathleen Eagle said...

Kylie, good for you for giving when you can. The comments here reinforce what we're told so often--that more people than we realize are not able to give (more all the time, yikes!) which means it's all the more vital that those who can, do.

We have one in our group who tries every time, but most of the time she gets rejected. She's healthy, great shape, but she tests low iron or a couple of times we've seen the flow just stop. It's weird. Still she gives it a shot every time with occasional success. That's dedication.

Did you know that if the donation is short of a pint they can't use it? Can't remember what the reason is, but that seems weird, too. I think they said they have to throw it out.

Anyone know why?

Kathleen Eagle said...

I used to dread the finger prick most of all until one blessed tech clued me in to this little gem: never let them prick the end/tip of your finger. That's where the nerves are! Half an inch to one side and you barely feel it. Why in all these years have I not known this?

Candace said...

I'm 0+, so I give as often as I can, which is about six times a year. I'm lucky in that my veins are easy to find -- a good, experienced tech and I hardly feel the needle going in. I can't look, though. Too chicken.

catslady said...

I've done it a few times but actually they really don't want my blood - I am AB- which means only another AB- can use my blood but I can use anyone else's blood (not sure about the negative and positive though) but I know I can use A, B, AB or O. Apparently only 1/2 of 1% are AB-. But my husband is O+ and says he gives enough for both of us!

Playground Monitor said...

I have fibromyalgia too, so I can sympathize with Elizabeth.

I'm O+ too, which makes me doubly sad I can't donate anymore since I'm a universal donor. Maybe the rules will change one day.

My mom donated up into her late 70's, but then had to stop because it was doing funky things to her blood pressure.

Lori said...

Mazel Tov! What a wonderful thing to do! I'm a 10 gallon donor. I've been donating every 2 months since I was 17, as has my brother. We learned it from my dad, who donated every 2 months from the time he was 17 up till he was 65. At which point, they told him he'd done his duty, and they were tired of picking him up off the floor each and every time (he was a fainter).

I'm also a fainter, but I warn them (bless my dad's heart, he never told them, but at least he went to the same center every time to donate, LOL!!) So it takes me at least an hour to donate each time, cause they don't let me leave till they're sure I won't pass out.

And I'm way jealous! We'd planned to go see Australia today, but it's already out of all the theaters by my house, making way for the Christmas day movies. How mad am I??

lois greiman said...

Great post, Kathy. When I've tried donating in the past they haven't liked my iron count, but my kids are good about it. Travis is working at a hospital in Grand Forks ND now and is giving plasma on a regular basis. So I am, once again, living vicariously through my young uns.

Kathleen Eagle said...

Lori, I got up too soon this time. I usually don't faint dead away, and it had been a while since I got the dizzies, so I was overconfident.

We'd been meaning to see Australia and kept getting sidetracked. Glad we got there when we did. It's definitely worth the big screen price. Grand scenery, big action--I'm not into special effects, but great action needs a big screen--and running horses. And Hugh Jackman looks better than ever.

The Australian gov't policy of taking aboriginal children (this is set at beginning of WWII) from their families and putting them in boarding schools is an important part of the plot. Called "the stolen generations." The policy formally ended in 1973. In the US the Indian Child Protection Act wasn't passed until 1977. Yes, we did the same thing here.

Helen Brenna said...

Very cool holiday tradition, Kathy. Like Marilyn, for years I didn't weigh enough to give blood. Then when I passed that benchmark, I gave a few times and felt terribly sick for days afterward.

What's the trick to bouncing back quickly?

Kathleen Eagle said...

You petites always make me feel like such an oaf. The woman who did my intake was tiny. I don't think she reached my shoulder. When I stand next to someone like that I feel so...big.

The trick, they say, is hydration. Drink lots of water for at least 2 days before and keep drinking after. And iron, of course, but we need that anyway. (I used to have low iron half the time, and I hated what iron supplements did to my system. I think menopause took care of it, though.)

They also say that donating blood is actually good for your health, especially men.

flchen1 said...

What a terrific family tradition, Kathleen! I haven't given recently but did fairly often in college. Thanks for the reminder, and for the idea for a family outing ;)