I decided to give blood again on January 27 at the high school. I’m not certain how many times I have donated altogether. It may have been 172 times by November 2018. Did I donate in 2019? I KNOW I gave at least once before during the pandemic, also at the high school. So this past event was at least time #174.
As NPR noted, “Some hospitals say they’re rationing blood products.” Nora O’Donnell, the anchor of the CBS Evening News, said she’d donate for the second time as a result of the blood crisis. OK, time to return to the ranks of donors.
The school is in the midst of construction, so I needed a guide from the entrance to the gym annex. I “passed” the medical check-in, with my iron at 15.6, my temp at 98.3, and my BP at 123/73. My pulse was 86, probably based on walking there when the air temperature was about 5F/-15C; the pulse was 57 when I was home. To give blood, it has to be between 50 and 100. I saw two of my daughter’s friends, each donating for the first time.
When I got to the table where I would recline, I told the phlebotomist about how I have had some difficulty donating in the recent past because of the scar tissue that has developed near the veins in both arms. They said, “Do you want a supervisor?” I said, “No, I just wanted you to know.” Nevertheless, I ended up waiting for another person.
This went well because she poked me beneath the vein rather than above. Or something like that. It took the usual five or six minutes – I still have it! I got up from the table…
…when the fire alarm went off. Apparently, this had happened before because Alicia, the LIBRARIAN who was in charge of the school side of things indicated that they were prepared for this scenario. The protocol was that we should stay in place, even as I could see students pouring out of the building into the cold.
In fact, my daughter was incredulous when I replied to her text that we were still inside. Finally, after a fire truck arrived and ascertained the building wasn’t on fire, the students returned to the building even as I was trying to exit it.
I’m planning to donate again in a few months, certainly not waiting as long as I did this last time.
Here’s a real sidebar. When I donated in 2018, I wrote inelegantly on Facebook as though I’d donated 172 times in ONE DAY. I was playfully teased, but one of my Binghamton/Dickinson buddies vigorously came to my defense. Not that it was needed, but it was quite kind.
Damn mad cow
My wife still can’t donate blood because she spent a semester in England in the early 1980s. “In some parts of the world, cattle can get an infectious, fatal brain disease called Mad Cow Disease. In these same locations, humans have started to get a new disease called variant Creutzfeld-Jakob Disease (vCJD) which is also a fatal brain disease. Scientists believe that vCJD is Mad Cow Disease that has somehow transferred to humans, possibly through the food chain.
“There is now evidence from a small number of case reports involving patients and laboratory animal studies that vCJD can be transmitted through transfusion. There is no test for vCJD in humans that could be used to screen blood donors and to protect the blood supply. This means that blood programs must take special precautions to keep vCJD out of the blood supply by not collecting blood from those who have been where this disease is found.
“You are not eligible to donate if, from January 1, 1980, through December 31, 1996, you spent (visited or lived) a cumulative time of 3 months or more, in any country in the United Kingdom (UK)…” Alas.
Gay male donors
But the rules aren’t quite as stubbornly awful towards potential LGBTQ+ donors.
“The FDA guidance Revised Recommendations for Reducing the Risk of Human Immunodeficiency Virus Transmission by Blood and Blood Products’ states, ‘Defer for 3 months from the most recent sexual contact, a man who has had sex with another man during the past 3 months.’ All U.S. blood collection organizations must follow this federal requirement.” At least, this isn’t the rejection of all men who had sex with a man even once since 1977.
“The Red Cross recognizes the hurt this policy has caused to many in the LGBTQ+ community and believes blood donation eligibility should not be determined by methods that are based upon sexual orientation. We are committed to working with partners toward achieving this goal.
“We continue to assist in evaluating alternative donor eligibility criteria and the expanded use of new technologies to work toward the elimination of donor eligibility questions based on sexual orientation that would no longer be necessary. However, as a regulated organization, we cannot unilaterally enact changes concerning the MSM deferral policy.”