A bit ago, I blogged for work about my journey toward becoming a milk donor. In a nut shell, I went from not having quite enough milk with my first kiddo to having more than enough to spare with this third kiddo and so I’m donating the extra to a milk bank in Ohio. Why Ohio? Because we don’t have one in PA. We don’t have one on the East Coast any closer than Boston.
Milk banks provide human milk as critical food to premies in danger of NEC. Milk banks would love to provide milk to all babies whose parents would like for them to have human milk, but the demand for just these micropremies far exceeds the milk coming in to the banks. So. Sickest babies get first dibs from milk banks.
I so love the idea of my spare milk helping a tiny baby. I’m putting together my donation a dribble at a time–I need to gather 200 ounces for a shipment to the bank in Columbus.
It sounds a lot easier than it actually is.
I mean, sure, pumping once a day and bottling/labeling the milk is kind of a pain. I’m working it out, though, and it is what it is. Right from the start, this project was a community effort, since I’m storing my milk in my neighbors’ deep freeze while I gather up my 50 4-ounce jars.
It’s all the OTHER stuff involved in being a milk donor that’s making me grit my teeth a little bit.
Like, the paperwork. There is SO MUCH paperwork. I had to fill out a gargantuan survey after I answered the identical questions in a pre-screening phone interview. I had to get my pediatrician to sign off on a paper that indicates Oren is indeed a humongous baby who can spare this milk for the bank. I had to get my midwives to fill out a paper that indicates I’m a healthy lady.
Oh, and I had to have blood work.
You might assume, as I did, that this nonprofit organization would simply reimburse me for going to Quest for the required bloodwork. That I could just bip into a lab at my convenience, get the blood drawn, send the bill to the milk bank, and not think about it again.
Oh, no. Nope.
This is what they do. Preview: It’s insane, with so much room for error I can’t even imagine how this is a better idea.
They mail me, along with my shipping container for my 200 ounces, a blood drawing kit. It had vials, a tourniquet, freezer packs, labels…it had phlebotomy tools. All I needed to do was get someone to “donate” a needle and draw the blood. Then I was supposed to pack it up and send it away with the enclosed prepaid FedEx label and HUMAN SPECIMEN stickers.
Let’s revisit that paragraph: I needed to find a nurse to steal a needle from her employer.
Nurses have been fired for a lot less, and this was the response many of my nurse-friends gave me. I went the respectable route first. I asked my midwives, but they send all blood draws to the big corporate lab. I asked my PCP, but they send all blood draws to the big corporate lab. I asked my pediatrician, but they don’t do blood draws in the office, nor keep the needles around.
Finally, I found someone willing to gank a needle for me, but she didn’t feel comfortable doing the draw.
So my other nurse friend did some kitchen phlebotomy. Here’s how it went down:
I stuck Miles on the school bus and loaded the other 2 kids in the minivan. We drove to C’s house, where my children and her children wept and swirled around us. C’s son was actually tugging on C’s trousers, trying to pull them down as C stuck a needle into my arm at the kitchen counter.
I sat with my eyes squeezed shut telling Felix to just play with a ball and stop crying.
After 700 years, C filled the third vial and I felt her breathe the biggest sigh of relief known to humankind. “I’ve never drawn blood under these conditions,” she said. We packed it all up and I drove it to the closest FedEx, dragged my 2 youngest children in to wait in the longest holiday FedEx line possible, and learned I couldn’t send it from that location because they don’t do human specimen there.
I had to put everyone back in the van and drive to the main FedEx place, where I overshared the story of what was inside my package to the girl with the scan gun. She was pretty unphased, which allowed me to daydream a bit, wondering what sorts of things people send via FedEx at the main Pittsburgh location.
At any rate, I don’t have any major communicable diseases, as my labs came back in top shape. I’m up to 86 ounces of spare milk on ice and now that the boys go to daycare twice a week, I’ll probably start collecting milk more rapidly. I get about 4 spare ounces per day I remember to pump for the milk bank.
So many people have become involved now. I have to make it! 114 to go!