Monday, March 06, 2006

Take my blood - please!

I know that I've been lazy about posting, but it's for a ... well, it's for a stupid reason. I haven't posted because there's been a post about blood donating that's been on my mind, but I know that it's complicated for me and I'm not sure how to say it, so I've been putting it off longer and longer.

So I haven't posted because there's something specific I want to post about. Yep.

It all started back in high school. Once we were 17, we were encouraged to donate blood. They didn't bring a mobile clinic to the school, though - instead, every few months, if you went to donate blood at the Red Cross across town, you got the rest of the day off, to 'recover'. Giving blood wasn't a hardship for any of us, so my friends and I would jump on every chance we got, and make a day of it. We'd goof around in the waiting area, and then try to all get in the chairs at the same time so we could race to see who could fill up their blood bag the fastest, squeezing our fists and trying to breathe a bit faster. John always won, though, being the only boy - a nurse commiserated with us once, saying, "Boys have bigger veins - sorry." But I got my time down to under seven minutes, so I was a little bit proud of that. The clinic had Herman cartoons on the ceiling, so you spent most of your time trying to see how many of them you could see from your chair without moving around too much, so the nurse wouldn't come and scold you for moving your arm.

Then, of course, it was the cookies (usually stale) and juice (from powder), and we'd leave, with our little blood donor stickers proudly displayed on our jackets. We'd go out to lunch, then spend the day goofing around, or shopping. The only day I got woozy was the day we gave blood, then went downtown to walk and shop, then to the mall, then went straight to Tae Chi. I had to sit down quickly. It still makes me laugh that I was done in by Tai Chi.

So I kept giving blood whenever I could for the most part, dragging new friends with me when I could. I never really thought much about it, but I liked to go in part because it made me feel like I was being a Good Person. The first time I realised that it meant a bit more to me than that was when I was living in Calgary. I had a week of bad days, spent looking for jobs and doing stupid temp work, and napping in the afternoons because there was nothing else I could do, with no job and no money. I decided that the best way to get out of my little funk of sadness was to do something for someone else. I got flowers for my roommates, and that made me feel a bit better. But it was when I went to give blood that I really felt like things were going to get better, and I could look forward to maybe being positive and happy again.

Like so many other things in life, it wasn't until I lost it, that I fully realised how important giving blood was to me. When I went that last time, I was in the little partioned-off booth with the nurse asking me silly questions and looking for track marks on my innner arms (which are pock marked with the triangular scars of donation needles) when she asked me about my time in Britain. They'd changed the rules, she said, and now any time more than three months spent in the UK since 1980 - cumulatively - meant an ineligibility to donate. I was stunned. I hadn't seen this coming. I sat there, listening and nodding as she told me that there were other ways I could help, I could donate, or canvass, or hand out cookies at the clinics. I'm sure she said other things, too, but I don't remember them. I was just praying for her to stop talking so that I could leave. I went out to the car, and sat down, and started crying. Yes, it made me cry when I was told that I could no longer regularly visit a place where people would stab me with large needles and then give me broken cookies.

After that, I became pretty bitter about Canadian Blood Services. Every time someone mentioned them, I'd start ranting about stupid, non-scientifically based policies, and the people who thought them up. When I was in Ottawa, and standing on a balcony above the CBS headquarters, I had to resist the urge to spit on their roof. People stopped talking about them to me, because they were a bit leery of the crazy.

Last year, my mum called to tell me that she'd heard on the news that the rules had changed. Now, you're ineligible to give only if you spent more than three months in the UK between 1980 and 1996. I spent probably about two months there in that time, then was there for three and a half months in 1998. So I was in the clear. But there were hurt feelings, and it took me a while to decide to go back. I finally made the call last week to set up an appointment (another stupid 'innovation' of the CBS - people are more likely to give if they can just go and walk in, I think - is that just me?) and was told that I was still on the 'ineligible' list, though they didn't know why. So now I'm to wait two weeks and then they're supposed to call me back to let me know whether or not I can give.

Oh, the anger. Why?!? I'm trying to do something good, here! And they won't let me! Why should I keep trying? They are not encouraging more donations. Arrgh. I can't even express how this is making me feel, because I don't really know. I know that this probably didn't make sense, but if I didn't get it out somehow, I might have exploded.

So. I'll call again once I get back from Toledo, if I haven't heard from them by then. Until then, I guess I'll keep hoarding my blood all to myself. Thbbppt.


Rachel said...

Start a new trend: Cross-Border Blood Giving!

or, not. What punks Canadian Blood Services are. I think that if you have a clean bill of health from your doctor (I totally almost typed 'uncle' there, and I have no clue why), you should be allowed to give blood. No matter where you've spent time, no matter who you sleep with. I mean, they test the blood before they give it away, right?


Kirst said...

Hmm. They pay you for your blood down there, don't they?

Sabrina said...

I've heard rumors of being paid for blood but I have yet to find a place that does. Not that I'm actively looking. That sounds bad. However, in the interest of full disclosure I have done random research studies for money. Somewhere in Sweden there are vials and vials of my DNA being cloned and experimented on but the sheet I signed swore it will not be used to make mini mes.

Anyway, I'm sorry and they are total punks. It's amazing to me how hard it can be to do something good sometimes.

Sabrina said...

And it appears America is stupid as well. Under reasons one can never donate:

"...have ever traveled to or lived in the United Kingdom (England, Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales, The Isle of Man, or the Channel Islands) for a total of three months between the years of 1980 and 1996 or traveled to or lived anywhere in Europe for a total of five years since 1980. There are some exceptions regarding military bases."

Also, I sort of knew this but what the??? "(for men) had sex with another man, even once, since 1977."

Perhaps they wouldn't be having continual blood shortages if they didn't turn everyone away. Insanity.

Though you have inspired me to take advantage of my non-travelling non-gay-male self, and give blood. Now to figure out who has the best cookies. ;-)

Erin said...

I will take everyone's word that this was a fabulous entry. Erin + Blood = Passed out Erin on the floor with a side of squickiness.