Be Unkind To Me Today I Didn't Give Blood Today

I was a little excited to go down today and give blood. My daughter was excited. She wanted to see how all of this worked. I thought I could instill her in that it was painless and easy to give blood. Then by her 17th birthday she would start doing it herself. Unfortuantely, I gave her a lesson in a faulty bureaucracy that took lives a generation ago and is now doing it more passively.
They couldn't take my blood. Was I fresh from a vacation in Haiti with my gay IV-drug-using lover who shared my penchant from British beef spine tartar? Nope. I took a back pill for a sore neck. The stunned nurse didn't know what a back pill was and she phrased her questions like she was helping me better remember what brand of smack I buy. She trucks out to the lobby and comes back with a phone book. I guessed that the generic pills I bought two or three years ago came from London Drugs or Shopper's Drug Mart. She called someone at both (likely not a pharmacist) and asked the question about what was in back pills in such a perplexing way that they couldn't guess what she was asking. Somehow the staff at the blood clinic and two drug stores didn't know that there is such a thing as pills for muscle and back pain relief. Granted, I don't put too much faith in nurses*. So she apologized, said she couldn't take my blood and asked if I come back tomorrow. What? Why? Because a bureacracy without a blockage is like a fireman in an village made of stone. If the pills disqualfied me, why come back on the next day? Who cares if I couldn't give blood every day of the week. As long as I kept showing up, I would be contributing to their workload.
The Canadian blood supply is broken and it will take a crisis like an ebola outbreak or The Big One to expose the catastrophe that we're paying tax dollars to perpetuate.
In the 1980s, the Red Cross chugged away quite nicely. People would give blood, they'd rush it off to the hospitals and all was well. Then came AIDS. The mystery illness turned out to be transmitted by blood and bodily fluids. Eventually a test came about to screen out infected people and infected blood. Eventually, the Red Cross adopted the testing regimen and screened blood for HIV. The problem: the Red Cross took a while to employ the screening. People who took lifesaving blood ended up contracting HIV and some of those people died of AIDS because of the blood doled out by the Red Cross. A few years later, history repeated itself when it was found that blood tainted with hepatitis got through the system and infected recipients. The shake-up meant that the role of blood donation was taken away from the Red Cross and put into the hands of an organization with the sole role of dishing out blood: the Canadian Blood Services. Gone were the anonymous blood drives tht would pop-up here and there. The Canadian Blood Services had established locations. They made appointments for donors to show up and they tried to put order and routine to the process. Along the way, they added bureacracy to protect them from getting their ass bitten again. Have they gone too far? Have they gone far enough? Respectively: yes and no.
They have levels of screening. There is a questionaire. There is a brief inspection by a nurse. Then (presumably) there is testing of the blood.
The questionaire asks if you are an IV drug user, if you have engaged in any high risk activity (like gay sex) or if you've travelled to hotspots for blood borne diseases like the UK (oooohhh, the tea slurping hinterland and home to mad cows). These questions screen out a lot of people (heck, the questions screened me out: when asked if I took any medicine, I answered honestly and now I'm blogging angry). My wife lived in the UK in the late 1980s, so she can't give blood. If you've had diaherra in the two weeks surrounding your blood donation, you're disqualified. What gets me is the questions they fail to ask. Here are some good ones and why they should be automatic failures:
Do you work as a custodian or janitor? Janitors have to clean bathroom. Urine, feces and used feminine products are ideal transmission mediums for hepatitis, e coli and HIV respectively.
Do you work in law enforcement? Show me a cop who hasn't had to dodge junkie spit or bleed and I'll show you the Easter Bunny.
Do you work in the health industry? When AIDS emerged, the order of people who contracted it was something like this: 1) gay men, 2)hemophiliacs and 3)health care workers. Health workers are more protected but just as exposed to HIV. This question will never make it onto the questionaire, because the questionaire is written by health care workers.
Have you had non-vaginal sex since 1977? With all of the teens becoming friends-with-benefits then becoming blood donors, they're a way higher risk group than anyone referenced on the questionaire.
Have you had any liquor in the last day? If I'm three sheets to the wind and my donation is 0.9% vodka, wouldn't that have an effect on someone in dire need of blood?
Have you eaten beef products from the United Kingdom, Brazil, Canada or the US? The questionaire targets people who lived in the UK in the period when Mad Cow could have made it through the food chain and onto the dinner table. Many other countries have had cases of Mad Cow disease and leaving them off is irresponsible.
Have you accepted food for sex? They ask if you've accepted drugs or money for sex. If you're really desperate, you'll put out for a burger. Heck, when I was poor and single that would have been killing two birds with one stone.
Then comes the brief inspection by a nurse. She checks your arms for needle marks. Maybe my neighbourhood only gets all of the non-altruistic junkie; the giving ones are giving blood when they're not stoned. Any junkie who doesn't want to get caught will shoot up between their toes.
You are asked if you are who you say you are. You have to produce other ID. What is there some scam I am missing here? Is someone repeatedly donating free bad blood and making a lot of money at it? Who came up with this protocol? Americans? That would make sense. In the US you can sell your blood, but not your kidney. How messed up is that? The nurse quizzes you on your answers. Then you jump that hurdle and give them your paperwork. This includes two little stickers. One basicially says, "use my blood" and one says, "don't use my blood." What the hell is that all about? You jump through all of the hurdles. You sit there and they bleed you a pint of your life's blood. Then you pop on the thumbs-down sticker and after all of this, they toss your blood. Why? Well, if you've lied on your questionaire and fooled the nurse and wasted everyone's time, you can still have a chance to do the right thing. What a stupid mechanism. I can understand how you get this far. The questionaire has so many arbitrary questions that if you second-guess the questionaire and still want to give blood you can back out.
Presumably there is the testing of the blood. Given all this pre-screening, I have a concern that they spot check the blood and test only some donations. Given the questions they fail to ask, they had better check every last packet.
The oughts are the decade of CYA. Rather than do your job right, people are insulating themselves in a protective padding of paperwork. Rather than preemptively refuse most people before they give blood, they have all of this busy work. It's like confiscating nail clippers to combat global terrorism. People can stockpile their own blood-- but they've made that so difficult that its impractical. If you showed up to tap off some of your own blood just-in-case that would be a slam dunk for screening (you can't give yourself AIDS) but that would leave a lot of Canadian Blood Services dweebs with nothing to do but manage people's private accounts of blood. Really: this service is there to provide for the sick and injured. The injured often put themselves in harms way. They so little forethought about their well being, they're not about to give blood even if it is too keep themselves alive.
I know two people who also give blood. Of all of my friends and associates: two. Between the three of us one time donors, none of us give blood anymore. For me, the frustration factor did me in. The frustration factor may be so pernicious that its why so few people give blood. So what happens after the supply perpetually falls short of the demand?

* My favorite nurse story: a patient came out of post-op with an IV drip of saline. It was supposed to dispense saline throughout eight hours; she screwed it up and it chugged in a litre of saline in less than 30 minutes. She kept it a secret from everyone but her fellow nurses and defended herself with, "Fine. Tell someone and I'll get in trouble." When you're in a hospital you're in a kill zone between doctors, nurses and your illness.


Cheryl said…
Yeah but I always enjoy the stunned looks on everyone's faces when I say I can't give blood "because I'm harbouring mad cow disease."
Falcona said…
Bloody Hell!

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