Saturday, 17 September 2011

Of colds and blood donations

I donate blood every two months and today is supposed to be my donation day. Yesterday I was foot-dragging exhausted, but I hadn't slept well and had to be at work for 6am, so it was hard to tell if I was coming down with something or simply exhausted. But I woke up this morning with a scratchy throat and have been coughing and sneezing so, congratulations, it's a baby cold.

I guess it could be worse, I could have come down with the cold tomorrow, which would mean I'd gone through the whole donation process just to have my blood thrown out.

The donation process leaves me puzzled every time. I get most of it, I really do, but some parts baffle me. They have a list of questions that you have to answer. Half the list you check off at a booth (similar to a voting booth). It has questions like "are you feeling well" and "have you taken any medication in the last two days". Nice common sense questions, and yes, if I'm bleeding out on an operating table, I wouldn't want to have donated blood with Aspirin in it. The last question in that section asks if you've ever had a job handling monkeys or their bodily fluids and I'm juvenile enough to snicker every single time I read it.

Then come the personal questions which are answered in a partitioned off area. Only you and a nurse are allowed in that area and she (I've only ever had a female nurse at blood donors) asks the questions. And they are strict about it being only the two of you. If you've brought a toddler with you, you better have some toys to entertain your child because they're going to be sitting in the waiting room on their own. Yes, I've been there.

And those questions are, for the most part, personal. Some have to do with travel but most have to do with sex, drugs, and money or drugs for sex. But that's where I get confused. My first inane thought is regarding most questions starting "since 1977". I turned seven years old at the end of July that year so was six for most of it. I'd have to be one heck of a precocious child to be turning tricks for drugs at that age.

They have a question in there (and thank you Google because I didn't have it memorized): "In the past six months, have you had sex with someone whose sexual background you don’t know?"

Now I'm not sure, I thought it was "in the past year" but, as I said, I didn't have it memorized. Let's say it is, in fact, a year. Hypothetically that means I could spend every single night from now until New Year's Eve having carnal relations with a different man. If I stopped as of December 31, 2011, Canadian Blood Services would be fine with me donating as of January 1, 2013.

That would be (looks at the calendar and counts on fingers) 106 hypothetical men... all of them with unknown backgrounds. And as long as I didn't open my mouth and say, "hey, have you ever slept with a guy before", Canadian Blood Services would be more than happy to take my blood. Children's Aid might have some worries but Canadian Blood Services, as long as I pass their blood tests, wouldn't know. I wouldn't even have to lie.

But friends of mine, who have been together for 14 years, can't donate. Why? Because they're men and there's another question (thanks again Google): "Have you had sex, even once, with another man any time between now and 1977?" And that one leads to a lifetime ban.

I don't know about you but if I had to choose between donated blood from a man in a monogamous, long-term gay relationship or blood from a woman who had sex a year or so ago with a bunch of men whom she never bothered to ask for sexual history... I'd go for the man. Canadian Blood Services decided otherwise.

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