But it’s in me to give
Most of us have heard these tones on the radio preceding a call from Canadian Blood Services to get to a blood donor clinic posthaste and donate that precious red fluid that runs through our veins. I’d heard the tones many times, and posted announcements here in the paper for upcoming clinics here in Uxbridge many more times, but had never donated blood myself. I finally bit the bullet last month, and went on April 21. I booked online and at the appointed time, showed myself at the desk just inside the doors at the Seniors’ Centre. A nurse asked me for my donor card, and I explained that I didn’t have one, this was my first time here. She snapped her head up to look at me and promptly gave me a little sticker that said “Be nice to me, I’m new!” (which made me wonder if they’re mean to repeat customers…). They even had me book my next appointment.
After taking down all my particulars and popping them into a computer, I was handed a bar code and told to go into the main hall and have a seat at one of the several little computers there and answer some questions – I believe she said 66 in total. I stepped into the hall, and was bowled over by the scene. I had expected a few chaise lounge-type chairs, some IV poles, a couple of people with their sleeves rolled up, and a nurse or two. Instead, I was confronted with a well-laid out system of computers and people who had the dozens and dozens of donors and potential donors moving through the various required stations at a steady pace. Wow, I thought, this is really a big thing.
I sat down and answered the questions that required me to think past whatever might have happened beyond last week, and, feeling quite chuffed with myself, took a seat in the first section of waiting chairs. I knew the gal sitting next to me (this IS Uxbridge), and we got caught up on life and such. She saw my newbie sticker and told me about how she’s been donating blood for years. The gal on the other side of me overheard, and the three of us chatted about donating blood, making it a social event, even talking about how the one lady’s teenage son brough his birthday party to the clinic to do a group donation before going to play paintball.
My number was finally called, and I was led into a little cubicle with bright red dividers, and sat down with a nurse who was going to review my questionnaire and health history. I was very excited, as this was the next step towards being an official blood donor, and I really wanted one of those little cards, and to have a birthday party at the Seniors’ Centre, too!
All my answers were in order – medications had no contraindications, minor surgery in January didn’t affect things…it was looking good. Then it all fell apart. I had answered “yes” to a question asking if I had lived overseas in one of a list of western European countries for more than five years between 1980 and 2007. Seven years in Switzerland disqualified me from donating blood because of possible issues with Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease, or CJD. CJD is a rare human variant of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE, also known as mad cow disease), and because it can take decades to manifest itself in people, anyone who may have had the slightest bit of exposure to it, no matter how remote, is off the ok list for donating blood.
Just like that, I was told “Sorry, you don’t qualify, and you won’t be able to donate until, let’s take a look now, 2117.”
I picked up my purse and slowly made my way to the door. I caught Rotary president Dale Hickey’s eye as I dejectedly walked towards the door (Rotary Uxbridge sponsors the clinics in Uxbridge), and made a big show of peeling off my “I’m new” sticker and making like I had a tail between my legs. Dale rushed over to me – “You can’t donate? Neither can I, because I was away in March!”
“That’s just for now!” I cried. “ I can’t ever donate, not ever!”
I felt like a leper. Dale asked if I wanted to sit and have a cookie and some juice anyway, and I scowled and said I most certainly would, seeing as I would never be back again to partake in the fabled donate-blood-eat-cookies-drink-juice ritual. I sucked back my juice box, mumbled to the smug just-emptied donors at the table and slinked out the door.
I was really sad. I completely and absolutely understood why CBS had turned me away – they can’t take chances. But I had been really excited to do something that was obviously really cool and easy to do. I had thought donating blood was a 10-minutes and you’re out the door thing, but no, it’s an event. An event that I wanted to be a part of, but was told I couldn’t be. I was bummed.
I wonder how many thousands of potential donors are turned away because of similar situations. Probably lots, which explains why we hear those tones on the radio all the time.
Sigh. I guess I’ll have to find out what else is in me to give. I know – after I cancel my 2117 appointment, I’ll bake cookies for the next time the blood donor clinic is in town.