Blood Types

Thursday. I’m in a goose-infested corporate office park parking lot, waiting for my wife, who is inside a Red Cross, donating blood. Some machine is out in the distance, intermittently backing up, backing up. Emitting that insidious beep, beep, beep, beep. Other than that, the soundscape is pleasant. Sound of the wind. Birds. Sparrows, a cardinal, the geese.

There are empty swathes of spaces in the sprawling, interconnected parking lot. The office buildings are arranged in a wide ring around the parking lot at the core. There are still a number of cars parked up close to the buildings, packed tightly, the businesses in those buildings still humming along, essential or stubborn, it’s hard to say. Who’s gonna get close enough to inquire, who’s gonna stick their nose in it?

Not me. I’m just watching, and waiting. I’m a little curious about how my wife is doing in there. She hasn’t given blood in a while. I’ve been giving blood regularly for about a year and a half, participating in blood drives at the university where my wife works. Weeks ago we both signed up for a blood drive at the university that was supposed to take place this week. But of course it was canceled. So we made other arrangements.

I donated platelets earlier this week, a first for me for that type of donation. Platelets takes longer but I’ve learned that I’ve got boring blood, A positive, so platelets is the best kind of donation I can make. When you give platelets they use a centrifuge to spin out the platelet cells, which they keep. The rest of the blood they pump back into you. As opposed to the basic donation, called whole blood. My whole blood isn’t useless but A positive blood can only be transfused into A positive and AB positive recipients, roughly a third of Americans.

My wife’s O negative, universal donor. O negative blood is what they give people in need when there isn’t time to figure out what type of blood a person has. It’s the best there is. I talked her into doing a so-called “power red” donation, which is like a souped-up version of whole blood. In a power red, they’re able to collect two units of a donor’s red blood cells by using a centrifuge to separate out the plasma and the platelets, which they send back to you, along with a little saline. There’s a weight minimum governing who can do a power red, and she’s under the minimum. But I told her to lie! I’m not sure what got into me.

It’s been an hour and twenty minutes since she went in. That’s twice the amount of time I told her it would take. I’ve done power red before, through another blood bank, but the Red Cross doesn’t let A positives do power red. I suppose it isn’t worth the time, or the equipment.

If I ever get the disease, and if I recover, I’d sign up to donate some convalescent plasma. That’s where—

Ope, there she is! She’s upright, looks like she has her wits about her, the wind in her hair, and she’s got a curious smile on her freckled face. The same sort of smile she cast at me when I asked her the first question I ever asked her. We were working together on the student newspaper in college. Rumor had it her mother was ordering pizza for the whole staff that night. I asked her why.

“Don’t ask,” she said sharply, with that smile, her eyes sparkling like flints. By now I’ve learned what I didn’t know then. Her mom ordered us pizza because she’s a giving person. It’s in their blood.

—St. Louis, MO
April 2020