This is a source of some sadness and disappointment for me. I still get the letters in the post telling me that my blood is badly needed and that people are waiting for me to come and donate but, if I were to show up at their door, arm at the ready, they would turn me away.
I always found blood donation to be very good for the soul. That old adage about it being better to give than to receive could easily have been written specifically for blood donation. If you don’t do it – and can – I would highly recommend that you do. It’s good for the person who needs your blood, obviously, but it’s good for you too. Try it, you’ll see what I mean.
Although I’m of Catholic extraction, I find it hard to buy into the notion that I can undo any or all of my sins by going in a little box and telling somebody all about it. It all seems way too easy to me. Deep down, I can’t help but feel there needs to be some actual ‘Reparation’ for things I’ve done wrong. Blood donation seemed to help me with that notion. The pinch, the sacrifice of vital fluid, the sense of giving something back by way of making good. I dunno… it seemed to work for me, is all.
Then one day I got a letter. My blood was no longer usable by the Irish Blood Transfusion Service.
I accept the reasons for this but I still think they are strange and a bit scary too. The reason I can’t give blood is because I lived in England between 1984 and 1997.
That’s it, that’s all.
From November 2004, people who have spent one year or more in the UK between 1st January 1980 and 31st December 1996 are excluded from donating blood here in Ireland. This was apparently on account of the fear that Variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (vCJD) can be transmitted through blood transfusion and that the people who were most likely to have it were the ones who ate infected meat in Britain in that time.
That’s a lot of people taken out of the blood-donation loop and I’m just one of them.
And I miss it. I really do. I still wear my little Pelican donor pin on my coat but it’s an ironic gesture now rather then a proud one.
And then there’s that niggling worry, irrational but present nonetheless: If they don’t want all this badly needed blood of mine, what on earth do they know that I don’t? Is CJD still some time bomb waiting to explode in a proportion of the millions of us who ate meat in that decade?
And, if not, are they being just a tad too careful?