Back home (more years ago than I care to remember) I used to donate blood regularly. As soon as I could, I was back on the bed with a needle in my arm donating every last drop of blood I had. When I moved here, it took a little bit of time to settle in, and eventually I donated fairly regularly again.
When my brother was ill, I desperately wanted to donate my bone marrow so that he could have a transplant and live. Sadly, no one in the family was a match, and eventually the only option he had was to receive his own marrow back. This, however, was likely no good, and he only lived a few more months after that.
When I learned that the US had an extensive bone marrow donation program, I called the local blood center to state that I would voluntarily have a hole drilled in my pelvic bone, so that someone could finally benefit from my bone marrow. To my surprise I was immediately rebuffed. Did I have the money to do this? they asked.
Huh? Money? What are you talking about? Well, to find out if I'm a match for anybody on the registry now or in the future, a number of blood tests needed to be done. Since there is no funding for these tests, I needed to pay for these tests, so the information could go into the database. How much are we talking about? $600. You've got to be kidding me $600, and I need to pay that in addition to lying in a hospital so someone can drill holes in me and harvest my marrow?
This is how it works, unless you have a particular individual in mind that you want to donate for. If preliminary tests show you might be a donor, then their medical insurance would pay for the additional tests. Since I just wanted to volunteer out of the blue without having anyone in mind, there was no funding for the tests. Except if you belong to a certain ethnic background, in which case there was a special program to find donors of the same ethnic background. I said that I am of just about any ethnic background you could think off, but that wasn't enough. End of story. I'm a poor graduate student (currently $3.22 in my checking account, and payday is two days away), and there is simply no way that I could conceivably come up with that kind of money if I wanted to. More than anything, it's the principle of the matter, and I think there is something horribly wrong with the system.
Fast forward a couple of years. I'm about to give birth to one of my children. I discover there are a couple of options for my infant's cord blood. 1. I could store it for some unknown medical purpose in the future that hasn't been discovered et, for which I needed to pay money to have it stored. Or 2. I could donate it, so that the stem cells in it could be harvested, and be put to good use. I choose option 2. But when the time came, it turned out that there was no way the hospital could store the cord blood, therefore it was unlikely to be of any use to anyone. Guess what? My child's valuable cord blood went straight into the garbage.
I protest. I no longer donate blood. I still am however an organ donor, in case someone decides to kill me in a car accident or something like that. Hopefully my organs will not end up in the trash can somewhere, but will be put to good use. And if and when I return home, I will gladly go donate blood again as often as possible.
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