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Double Dog

Me, currently alive, playing with my kids.

New Blog Test: This post previously appeared on my group blog, Five Full Plates.

I vaguely remember lying in the hospital bed, so low on oxygen to the brain that the walls were wavering, watching this thick red sludge run from its baggy to a tube that disappeared inside one of my own veins, dripping slowly down into me. The blood was shockingly cold, so much so that I could feel it creating a chilled path from my forearm up to the elbow. The flesh around the puncture was numbed and goose pimpled, and it felt as cool as a corpse’s arm to my other, warmer hand.
The blood went up into my heart’s cavities, and my heart went on thoughtlessly pumping, indifferent to the source, spreading that faint chill all through me. My own scant blood was not quite enough to warm it. An hour before, the bag had been in a meat locker with other little red units that used to be inside people, frozen like bargain brand chicken nuggets. They gave me Benedryl and Tylenol and something else, I forget, to make my body ignore the fact that it was being slowly re-inflated with the blood of strangers.

Now, I am extroverted. I LIKE most people. I enjoy meeting folks and engaging in light conversation, but I am not easily swayed into intimacy. I am not a conversational confessional poet. The idea of kissing someone who is not my husband—even, say, Johnny Depp— is a little yucky to me; I would encounter foreign suck and strange tasting tongue meat. Unless I already love you, I don’t even much like to be hugged. So the whole thing with the icy, unknown blood seeping slowly into me and getting all mixed up with the weak and tattery remnants of my OWN blood… *shudder*

Scott was working in Florida; he leapt aboard the first plane he could find and zoomed home. He got to the hospital near the end of the first bag’s infusion. They said each bag would take three hours. They said I needed at least four bags. When Scott came in, I was glaring at the tubes and sniveling, imagining another ten hours of being completely skeeved out.

Me: I don’t LIKE this. That is someone’s personal, gross blood going IN me, and it is cold and I don’t even KNOW this person.
Him: I know, baby.
Me: That blood could belong to anybody. It is probably murderer blood. That looks to me like the blood of a killer.
Scott: It is not the blood of a killer.
Me: It is, it is! It is murderer blood, and as soon as they are done I bet I start sleepwalking around and the murderer blood will make me stab people in the face.
Scott: That doesn’t happen.
Me: It DOES! It has happened a lot of times. I saw it on television.
Him: *skeptical eyebrows* Where did you see it on television?
Me: Okay, Sci Fi Channel. BUT IT HAPPENS.
Scott: Joshilyn. Trust me. They do not take the blood mobile to maximum security prisons and ask if any high risk killers want to donate.
Me: It is the blood of a secret, crafty murderer, then. Soon they will find the chewed bones of a thousand children in his basement, and all the neighbors will say, “He seemed so nice—quiet fellow. Kept to himself…”
Scott: Do you really think serial killers spend an hour every eight weeks…donating blood? Or running bake sales so the band can go to state, or serving turkey dinner at the homeless shelter? Killers are not generally thoughtful.
Me:…prolly not.
Scott: You know who gives blood?
Me: …No.
Scott: Me. I give blood. That’s the nice blood of someone nice, who nicely took an hour out of their very busy schedule to put that crap in a bag for you, with no other thanks than a sticker and a cup of a juice and a mini-pack of Nutter Butters.

Dear God, but that was so comforting! He is so nice, that man I married. If you ever need blood I hope you get his because it is so very excellent. I bet not even the freezer can hide his natural warmth and goodness.

And you may well get it one day, one of you. He is a mighty blood factory that donates on a schedule. He has an especially good kind that lacks an antibody found in 90% of the population. The antibody is mostly harmless, unless you are a premature baby. If you are a premature baby, that antibody will flat kill you. About a week before his eight week Full As A Tick Timer goes off, the Red Cross calls our house to see when he can come in. He tries to go the very first day he is allowed to donate. When people ring up and ask for Scott on those blood-giving afternoons, I say, “He can’t come to the phone right now. He is out saving the lives of little babies.”
The thing I didn’t truly, viscerally know is that he actually IS out saving the lives of little babies, and people with auto immune disorders, and chemo patients who are too frail for that antibody. I didn’t understand this fact before in any way but the most facile and intellectual.

I took in four bags of blood that night, and another bag during surgery. Each bag represented eight weeks of producing red cells and an afternoon of being drained of them. Five strangers did this, for no other reason than someone, somewhere, might need it one day in order to keep on living.

Boy, did I need it. When my surgeon opened me up, it was like a Tim Burton movie was being filmed in my guts, Oh My Beloveds. My uterus had changed from an innocuous, light bulb shaped object that sat around waiting to make truly spectacular babies into some sort of bloated sea monster, about the size and shape of half a shoe box, sending out questing tentacles of endometriosis into all my most vital organs. It was chock full of awful crap, fibroids and polyps , and worst of all, the dern thing had gone all leaky. I was bleeding internally, dumping tons of perfectly good blood out of my circulatory system and into my abdominal cavity. My own uterus was killing me quietly , from the inside, when before it had always seemed like such a nice uterus, a quiet fellow, kept to itself…

Here’s the actual medical true truth: Without these transfusions, I’d be dead. No way around it. My doctor sat me down and said so in the hopes that the next time I am swaying and fainting my way through yoga class, I might STOP working out and notice my body is completely breaking down. (HA! Not likely.)

But it is strange to think about this: I didn’t have enough blood to live through surgery, and without the surgery, they couldn’t stop the bleeding. Either way, without the transfusions, I would have bled out and died. Period. Not might have. Not could have. I would absolutely and with final finality be dead right this very now, except for the kindness and inconvenience of five total strangers who are probably, none of them, serial killers. Just folks. Nice folks. Folks like Scott.

When I think about this, and I look at my kids, I have to sneak away and weep helplessly because Maisy Jane and Sam are 8 and 13 and think they are Big Stuff, but really, oh really, they are babies, and no one in the world loves them and will fight for them like I will. I am the only mom they have. They need me here to make them finish their peas and clap like a mad thing at their boring-ass pinao recitals because I truly believe they are the very best ones.

Look at that first pic…my children fecklessly stuffing their heads up in the maw of a plastic shark. They need me there to explain that REAL dead sharks bite savagely for hours after they are dead, reflexively, and to NOT TO PUT THEIR HEADS UPIN THE MOUTHS OF REAL DEAD SHARKS. Those of you with kids know I am not kidding. They really have to be told these things because otherwise they actually WOULD stick their heads into a dead shark’s mouth at the first given opportunity, which may well occur be this summer when we are at the beach during the Shark Fishing Tourney.

Therefore, I can’t die right now. I cannot. I am too needed.

So, look. Truthfully? I made as light of all this as I possible could because being sick is boring and that’s how I roll, but I am still too frail and busy recovering to form a rock band or start some other big challenge. So I am fulfilling the challenge for THIS week here, now, in my PJs, from my office chair. Let me tell you, I had to step WAY outside my comfort zone to say on the interwebs all these details about my own personal abdominal cavity and reproductive system. In fact, to admit publicly that I EVER even HAD such a thing as a uterus makes me want to die. But I did it, and I will tell you why.

It is so I can say this to you: During this challenge, I dare you guys to give blood. Even if it is gross, which it is. Even if it pinches, which it does, a little. Even if you are a scared to do it, which some of you are. Even if it is inconvenient and you don’t really have a lot of spare time, which none of us do. In a very real and immediate way, you will be letting kids like my kids keep their mom s, husbands like Scott keep their wives, good friends like these stay Five Full Plates instead of taking down the poor, shunned elephant plate and being Four. (Aside just to you: You know if I was helplessly dead and could not fight it you can bet my fellow 5FP blogging wenches would absolutely stick me with the elephant plate.)

So. Give blood. If you do, you automatically win this challenge. You can have your message machine say you can’t come to the phone, because you are very busy ACTUALLY and TRULY saving the lives of babies. You can even sing a smug winner song as you tell the rest of us that you stepped outside YOUR zone and let some vampirous nurse poke a hole in your previously perfectly un-perforated skin so she could suck out your vital essences. We will coo admiringly, I promise.

Do it. Please do it. I dare you.

14 comments to Double Dog

  • Oh Joshilyn! You poor dear sweet heart. I am so sorry you have had to go through such an ordeal. You just lie right in that soft comfy bed until you are all better. And I am feeling mightily guilty now for all the times that I blew off the Red Cross and didn’t go give blood when they called. So, I just went here http://www.redcrossblood.org/donating-blood/eligibility-requirements to find out if I am eligible to give again and it looks like I am. So as soon as I’m cleared to drive I will be heading down to my nearest ARC donation site to lift a pint in your name. Get well soon pretty momma.

  • Normally I’d totally be up for a dare (if it wasn’t in any way life-threatening or embarrassing in any way, of course) but I have a condition that precludes me from donating. I will sit here and send encouraging “give blood” vibes, though, if that helps. Which it surely will. 🙂 I agree giving blood is SO important.

  • MelissaB

    I love this. Love that your husband knew the right words to help you, that your doctor was so forthcoming and skilled, that you had access to what you needed when you needed it and that you thanked those strangers that saved your life. Love it!

  • Linda J

    I used to give blood when the blood mobile came to work but that job was done almost 6 years ago but in reading your post I will absolutely go out of my way to do it the next time I see the big blood bus wherever I am. I now know exactly how important it is to donate. The thought that you might not be here if those 5 saints didn’t donate well I want to give big squishy hugs to every donor I know…just in case.

  • After that post I am ashamed to say that I, too, could be saving the lives of precious babies, but I don’t do it. I gave blood for myself (to stockpile before a surgery) when I was 17, and they found out I had the “most specialist blood for babies.” Problem was I almost threw up/passed out both times. Just giving tee tiny viles of blood for testing used to send my head between my knees with the nurse assuring me that I needed to breathe deeply. It was embarrassing. But after becoming the human pincushion from having three children, it doesn’t bother me as much anymore — that is as long as I don’t watch the very essence of my life drain from my body.

    So gosh darnit you are inspiring me to be a better person, and I don’t really want to be. But since you, my most favorite writer, were saved by kindly strangers and because Elizabeth, my most favorite sewing buddy, is most likely going to have to have chemo for breast cancer, and she might possibly need my blood, I will at least give it a try the next time the blood mobile comes to our little town. And since it’s here about every 8 weeks, I’m sure that will be very soon. Dang you five platers!

  • Kristin

    I did not know that about sharks. Of course I’ve lived in IL all my life so I haven’t exactly been living dangerously all this time. Still I should probably tell my daughter just in case.

    And the blood thing? I will try.

  • I love to give blood.

    Actually, I really hate it, but I love to thinking about saving mommas for their babies, and saving babies (except not premies, because I don’t have the super-special stuff) (my sister does, and she, like your husband, goes off and saves babies every six weeks or whatever it is). I am grateful not to have lived in certain countries during certain years, because they won’t let you give blood in that case.

    I’m so glad you are okay. And glad you are brave enough to tell us about it.

    I will give blood in four months + six weeks (approximately). Did you know that, unless you had complications, they will let you give blood just six weeks after giving birth? True story; I’ve done it, and will do it again!

  • Berni

    People like me give blood. I give blood on a regular basis, except when I was pregnant. It’s such an easy way to help people and I hope that your readers will take you up on your challenge. Don’t tell me that you don’t have time people! I have 4 kids, a fulltime job, a husband, 2 cats, and a dog- and I still make time for it. As for your husband, his blood might be some of the blood that a coworker of mine recieved recently. She’s a chemotherapy patient who had to have a transfusion so that she could keep getting her chemo. He really is saving lives. I just hope that my blood is out there helping someone too.

  • Priscilla

    Hearing this makes me proud to be a regular contributer at our local Blood Bank, Blood Assurance here in Chattanooga. I give platelets and plasma every 4 weeks, and whole blood every 8 weeks. I try to encourage more people to do this, it isn’t hard or even painful, just requres an hour of your time to lie on a nice comfy leather couch. I try to imagine who might be receiving my nice blood, and now I can picture you!

  • Rachel

    I give blood every 56 days and run around telling everyone I see on the day I donate “I saved three lives today!”, and they all look at me like I’m crazy. Hmmm.

  • […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Hillary Gayle, † Kimberly Jackson †. † Kimberly Jackson † said: RT @hillarygayle: One of the best calls to donate blood I have ever read: http://bit.ly/aQn5vg […]

  • Diana

    Dear Joshilyn,

    I’ve been dealing with family medical problems for the last month or so and only now am catching up. I’m so sorry that you’ve been so ill and so glad that the medical system and your friends and your wonderful family have surrounded you and fixed you up so that you will continue to write your great books. I hope your healing continues to go well and that you come back stronger and more creative than ever.

    Fondly, Diana aka parrotzmom

  • Wow! what an idea ! What a concept ! Beautiful .. Amazing …

  • JMixx

    Good heavens. I get a little busy for just a few weeks, and you go and hemorrhage and have to have surgery! That will teach me to fail to check in at The Blog.

    If you got A negative, it might have been mine! I like to donate. I’m not terribly fond of the garden hose with the javelin on it that the nurse comes at me with, but I’ll do anything for a cookie and some OJ. Kidding! Donating is the closest I get to being a hero. I wasn’t cut out for the military (obedient? in shape? are ya kiddin’???). I wasn’t cut out for motherhood (kids don’t come with volume controls, and you can’t crate them without some busybody calling social services!). So, whenever I’m anywhere the Red Cross goes, I donate. Where’s my cape and blue underpants? And my cookie.

    Keep taking care of yourself!