Today, after 48 years of donating, I finally reached the 200 pint level. I’d been preparing for quite some time for this. I wanted to do an art exhibit of my quest in the common house of my community.
I asked in advance for people to save 2 liter bottles for me without telling them why. Fortunately, I know a former bartender who pulled strings with her old friends. She came through with more than 50 for me. I planned to fill 46.7 of them with fake blood to represent the actual volume of blood I’ve given since 1970. After more thought, I decided it was better to just paint the inside of the bottles blood red. It was easier, cheaper and it made them much lighter to carry, too.
I had all my old blood bank cards, so I used them to make a spread sheet showing dates and places I gave blood. Then I labeled each bottle with the year(s) it represented. I added bits about my life, important events, and eventually birthdays to the outside of the bottles. I also had a cake prepared by QFC, and blood-red punch from a recipe Sheila found online.
The day arrived and I went to BloodworksNW. A couple of employees met Sheila and I to document my donation. It went smoothly, as always. It’s amazing that after 200 donations, I still can’t watch them poke the needle in. Then we had our juice and cookies and went home.
The celebration/art opening was scheduled to start at 7. We went down at 5 to set up the common house. The bottles were lined up in chronological order, the appropriate donation card nearby. We had my story posted on the wall with pictures from my donation. There was a conversation area for folks to share. Plus the cake and punch.
People drifted in. We greeted them and explained what we had set up.The parents were all very impressed. We’d put everyone’s name on a bottle corresponding to the year of their birth. Twenty of 28 people in our community were born after I started giving blood.
Several people shared their stories with me. One told me she had planned to start giving blood after 9/11, but she was rejected because she’d lived in the UK at the time of Mad Cow’s Disease. She was not-so-secretly glad. She wasn’t looking forward to the needle. Another told me of how her blood had some special antibodies which were very rare. I was impressed that so many people enjoyed reading the bottles and “living” the exhibit.
I was thrilled that both of our teens spent time not only eating cake but also reading and relating to the exhibit. It was fun.
We’ve left it up for an additional day and some say we should save it for another exhibition. We’ll see. It was a pleasure to do. I was happy to have my art director, Ms. S. Hoffman, who gracefully redesigned it and produced much of the wall exhibits. She’s the best.
Below the photos is my story of why I give blood.
My dad gave blood during World War II. He actually got two blood cards so he could give twice as often. He usually switched where he donated, too. But they eventually caught him and made him wait to get completely recovered before donating again. That was dedication. It has inspired me.
I started giving blood in 1970. I was a freshman at college and a high school friend was in a bad car crash going home for the holidays. About 20 of my fellow alumni gathered to donate blood in her name the next week. It was a way we could do something for her.
A couple years later I remembered how good that felt and I decided to start donating more regularly. By the time I finished college I’d collected my first gallon pin. I just kept on going from then on. It was an easy way to provide a life saving service to people in the community. It took less than an hour every 6-8 weeks. And they gave you cookies and treats when you finished! Why wouldn’t people do it more?
I’ll admit, I’ve never been able to watch as they poke the needle in. It makes me feel woozy to see the blood sliding down the tube. But I just turn my head. I figure it is worth it to help someone fighting cancer, an auto accident, or some other trauma. Maybe someone here will decide to try it.
Below is the complete collection of bottles if you really want to see them!