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When Donating Blood Unexpectedly Opens an Old Wound

Doctor's exam room.

I am not a huge fan of needles. Is anyone? I am also not a huge fan of donating blood. However, I recently tried to set aside my fears and give blood, because I knew it was the right thing to do.

I was way too early for my appointment and my heart was racing. Thanks to my fear of needles, I was anxious and nervous and thought about leaving more than once. But it was the anniversary of my dad’s death and I promised myself that I would do something not just for me on that day.

They called my name after a pretty short wait. I went back and they stuck my finger to check my iron levels. All good. Then they asked me some questions.

The American Red Cross now has a system called RapidPass where you can fill out most of the information on the day you are donating from the comfort of your own home. As long as you have a computer and a printer, you can pre-register.

The pregnancy question was the only one that stumped me. I am not pregnant now but the survey asked if I ever was. And I was pregnant once…six years ago. My daughter, however, died before she was born, three weeks before I was supposed to meet her.

Sitting on the folding bridge chair with a Band-Aid on my pricked finger, the nurse asked me to clarify the pregnancy question. Was I now or had I ever been pregnant?

I explained that I was not now, but that I had been. Then she asked me how old my child was.

I took a deep breath and explained that my daughter was born still. She was full term so I delivered her, but she died.

The nurse looked aghast. She apologized up and down. She mumbled that she was sorry and remarked that she was not sure why she was instructed to ask follow up questions. She did not think it made a difference in the donor’s health history.

After that, I was quickly passed off to someone else. I hopped up on the table and wiped the lone tear from my eye. The blood donation went smoothly and I was on my way less than 30 minutes later.

My daughter, whom I only got to hold for a few minutes in my arms, will remain with me until the day I die. I may have never heard her cry or felt her breath on my cheek, but she is very much a part of me. And every time I give my medical history, she is right there beside me.

It was a difficult experience, but I am not sorry I donated that day. A little bit of discomfort for me could make the difference in saving someone else’s life. I am just sad that I did not have more time with my first born. The price of having a sadness that’s with me each day, is that it may be brought to the surface when I least expect it.

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