Sunday, October 16, 2011

The sight of a needle about to pierce the skin sends shivers down many backs, enough to prevent them from going for a medical treatment, enough to block their minds from considering blood donation. According to Red Cross statistics, a mere 3% of US citizens have ever donated blood, a much lower rate than in most of Europe, and a real problem for the blood bank here in the US.

Donating blood was a regular part of my life. Since I was a teenager, I would donate blood twice a year. I the many countries I lived in, the process was nearly identical: step into a station nearby, fill in a quick questionnaire, get your arm stung, and be out with a cup of juice and a cookie in no more than half an hour. US has been the exception. Despite the big 'We need your blood' posters, the pleas and the expensive advertising campaign, donating blood in the US remained an ordeal.

When I first arrived here I thought of continuing my donation tradition and sought a place to donate. The station nearest to my place was too far to be convenient; the station nearest to my work, had inconvenient operation schedule. And when I once drove past a blood donation bus and stepped in, even though there was only a single person waiting, I was asked to arrange an appointment and come back another time. I never did.

But,as the say goes, if Mohammad is prevented from going to the mountain, the mountain will eventually come to Mohammad. After long advertising campaign, posters and emails, the Red Cross came to our office. They were not very popular, and the line was short. So, with a questionnaire in my hand, I waited for my turn.

Unlike any short blood donation questionnaire I had ever filled in, this one had seventy questions. They wanted to know if anyone I had sex with had ever used a needle (as if I'd know). They asked if, since 1977 I had ever taken money, or other payment for sex. (As if it matters). They could not answer if my wife's dinners and a nice bottle of wine should be considered 'other payment'.

But this was not the reason I failed their test. I failed because in the past 10 years I have spent more than three months in the UK, which made me a possible carrier of mad cow disease.

Next week they are coming again to my office. This time, there will be one less person in the already short line.

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