I’m planning to donate blood.
OK, “stupid” probably isn’t the best word. Giving blood is important. People need blood and it has to come from somewhere. Blood doesn’t grow on trees, you know. Perhaps “paralyzingly terrifying” is a better term. You see, I am deathly afraid of needles. In fact, I’m getting woozy just writing this posting.
Sarah can attest to my unreasonable fear of needles. After all, she was present the only time I ever gave blood, way back in high school. I had recently turned 17, the minimum age for giving blood, and there was a blood drive at our high school. I felt that I really should give blood, despite the fact that I usually cry like a little baby when anyone comes anywhere near me with a needle. I distinctly remember Mr. Burt, one of the teachers and the director of the play that Sarah & I were in at the time, making fun of me for being such a big baby as I waited in line, white with fear. Sarah was still 16 at the time so, since she couldn’t give blood, she ran back and forth between my cot and the cot of another person who also had the deathly fear, trying to keep us calm as we sat there with huge needles piercing our veins, nay, piercing our very souls, sucking our life’s blood from us! She was also the one who pushed the chair underneath me as I blacked out on my way from my cot to the juice table! Mr. Burt later recounted to me that he felt like quite an asshole for making fun of me when he saw me collapsing from across the school gym shortly after calling me a big baby. As he should have.
Now, you may think that blacking out is a bad thing, but as they say, when life gives you lemons, make lemonades, ya? I’ve parlayed that one second of unconsciousness into 13 years of “I can’t give blood, I black out.” And for quite a while, I managed to not feel (too) guilty about it.
But last year, Jay talked about giving blood on her blog. And the guilty feelings started to appear. Every so often, the idea squirmed its way into my brain – “You are fortunate that you are healthy. You could help out someone who really needs it!”* I even looked into it, but I discovered that I was below the minimum weight. So my excuse became, “I’d love to give, but they won’t let me!” That one’s even better than my wimpy “I black out” excuse, as it’s not my fault they won’t take my blood. But it has been on my mind. And since I’ve put on a couple pounds, I’m just over that minimum weight. Dammit.
So, last week when I saw a poster up on campus that a group from the Ag Sci faculty is getting together to give blood this Friday, I decided, against my better judgement, to email and say “hey, can I join you?” Of course, I have had a cold for about a week and if it isn’t better by Friday, I will have an out, as “full recovery” is required if you have had a cold, flu or sore throat. So the big baby in me is hoping that I still have a cough when Friday comes around. But the bigger person in me hopes I’m better**. Because I have blood and “it’s in me to give,” right?
Well, that brings me to one big problem I have with Canadian Blood Services – their discriminatory practices that mean that, for many people, their blood isn’t in them to give, despite what the commercials say. In particular, check out this question from the screening form:
Male donors: Have you had sex with a man, even one time since 1977?
If you are a man that has had sex with a man, even once in the last 30 years, you can’t give blood. Period. You also can’t give blood if you’ve taken money or drugs for sex (or paid someone money or drugs for sex). But there aren’t any questions to assess if you have had sex with lots and lots of people. The closest is question 28, which reads:
In the past 6 months, have you had sex with someone whose sexual background you don’t know?
But you could have unprotected sex with say, a different person every night, and as long as they didn’t pay you and you asked them about their sexual history, you’d be allowed to donate. Whereas a gay man who has been in a monogamous relationship for the last 30 years would not be allowed. Basically, hetero sluts can donate, but gays and whores cannot. And why only a 6 month limit on straight sex with strangers, but a 30 year limit on men having sex with men?
However, despite my dismay with their discrimination, Canadian Blood Services is the only provider of blood in Canada. And people get sick or injured and need blood, and it’s not their fault that CBS discriminates. They may suffer because perfectly healthy potential donors aren’t allowed to provide them with much needed blood, and I don’t feel like boycotting CBS and further decreasing the blood supply will help. Perhaps writing to CBS, to the government, and just raising the profile of this issue will help.
*and as the list of all the people I know who were injured or sick or died continued to grow last year, the idea seemed more and more important.
**that, and I’m sick of coughing and sneezing and being tired all day long.