50 Crazy Things in my 50th Year #26 – Give blood

Years ago, when I lived in Vancouver, I used to give blood like clockwork. There it was easy – you could drive down to the Red Cross building on Oak St., and go whenever you wanted. Secretly I think I really went for the free Coke and cookies.

Suddenly, some time in the late 1990s, I had to stop going and it annoyed me. Thanks to the outbreaks of Mad Cow Disease (Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease) in Britain and Europe, anyone who had lived in Great Britain during a certain period of the 1980’s was prohibited from giving blood. Since I had lived in Dublin for 6 months in 1989, this included me. It didn’t matter that at the time I was a vegetarian. So my record was marked with a permanent deferral and my days of free Coke and cookies came crashing down.

Last summer I was at a birthday BBQ at Lac Le Jeune and I heard from a few friends, regular blood donors, that the restrictions had changed.

It’s not as easy to give blood in Kamloops as it was in Vancouver. They hold clinics on limited days, you need to book appointments, and it just seems a bit like work. I procrastinated for months and then finally organized myself to go with Monica Williams in January. I knew that the real reason I gave blood was not because of the treats at the end. Many people I know and love, and many family members, had all benefited from blood donors and I knew it was the easiest thing I could do to help someone.

Lessons in Geography

It turns out, my first foray into blood donation in over 20 years was a bit more challenging than I expected. The regulations prohibiting people who had lived in the British Isles had been slightly clarified, but not eliminated.

blood 1

When we went for our appointments Monica was behind me. I discovered my record still had the deferral. I had no idea how much effort it would take before they even stuck a needle in my arm!

To give blood in Canada you can’t have spent more than 3 months in Britain or France and more than 5 years in Western Europe between about 1986 and 1997. I lived in Dublin in 1989. In the past they were very vague about what was Britain around 2000 and there was some confusion… so because I was in the Republic of Ireland (aka British Isles) I had been prohibited. Now it’s been redefined and it’s Britain (aka NORTHERN IRELAND, England, Scotland, Wales and the Channel Islands). The Republic of Ireland is part of Western Europe. You can’t have spent more than 5 years in Western Europe or France. Therefore I could now give blood but it took some serious geography lessons to make it happen. I had form after form that had to be filled out, supervisors were involved, computer records had to be overridden.

In the time that I was in my interview (step 2 of the process), Monica went into the interview after me, came out of her interview, got hooked up to give blood, and had finished giving blood before I even came out of the interview! All the while she’s staring at me with a “What the hell is happening?” look.

Then, once they finally got me hooked up at the end of the clinic, we discovered I am now a slow bleeder. I guess in the old days I guess I was more stressed and bled faster. Now it appears I’m a slow bleeder… will this madness ever end????? This is the price you pay for becoming more zen in your old age! I finally finished and discovered that they no longer give Coke and cookies – it’s juice and cookies. Thankfully there were still some cookies left or I would have been seriously annoyed!

Why was this crazy?

It’s so easy to do and yet it’s so easy to skip, avoid, or just not bother. I went through all the paperwork and geography nastiness and ended up with the privilege to give. I know a lot of people who traveled like I did after university and they still can’t give. I’m actually really lucky.

Would I do it again?

Absolutely. I won’t be able to give again until next January since I just got a tattoo (another prohibitive factor) and plan on getting a second tattoo on July 2nd. You have to wait 6 months after getting a tattoo before you can give blood. I will happily jump through the hoops to give, and I’m glad I get to hang out with Monica when I do it!


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