Joyce Watts, 53, watches intently as the nurse inserts a needle into the vein on the inside of her right elbow Tuesday morning. The inside of Watt’s elbow is dotted with small indentations from previous donations.
She never winces. “I’m never even mean to a nurse if they miss my veins. I’m always like, don’t worry about it, it’s alright,” Watts said. “It’s not a big deal.”
Watts, a West Eugene resident, is part of an extremely small percentage of people in the United States who has special type of blood that is specifically used for transfusions in infants and premature babies, which is why she donates blood every eight weeks.
“Less than 11 percent of the population has O-negative type blood,” said Kristi McEllinney, Marketing Communications Specialist with Lane Blood Center.
In fact, Watts’ parents and all nine of her siblings have it too.
“Macomb County Blood Bank in Michigan where I grew up would call my family to donate knowing they could get five or six pints of blood for a heart surgery,” Watts said.
Watts also does not have cytomegalovirus (CMV), a common virus that is part of the herpes family. About 50 to 80 percent of the U.S. population is infected with CMV, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. CMV rarely causes symptoms in healthy individuals, but for newborns and preemies exposure to the virus can be severe and in some cases fatal.
It wasn’t until after donating while living in San Bernardino, California that Watts discovered she was also CMV negative. She has been donating in Lane County since 2007, and donates as often as the rules allow, which is every 56 days.
“I believe in Karma and what goes around comes around. I’m hoping that blood will be available for me when I need it,” Watts said. “It’s free and it’s easy and it’s the right thing to do.”
Like clockwork, Watts has an appointment at the Lane Blood Center on Willamette St. every eight weeks. She is a bike commuter and rides the five miles round trip to her appointment regardless of the weather. It takes about 90 minutes out of her day.
This Tuesday morning, the nurse goes through the standard routine. She checks Watts’ temperature, iron level, blood pressure and pulse. If any of these falls under required levels, Watts must wait two days before trying to donate again.
“The worst part about donating is getting my finger pricked for the iron test, because it stings worse. It’s about the only thing that can stop me from giving, if the iron level isn't high enough,” Watts said.
Today, her levels are perfect. Watts always watches the nurses and actively converses with them while donating. She times herself as she gently pumps a pumpkin squish ball and watches her blood flow into the collection bag.
If you would like to donate please contact the Lane Blood Center at (541) 484-9111 or go to lanebloodcenter.org to schedule an appointment.