Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Why I don't donate blood

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.


knobody said...

i think the cord blood donation program locally has some serious problems.

kid one: midwives will collect cord blood for donation, but i'm xfered. when i bring it up at the last minute, the hospital doesn't have a collection kit. in a maternity ward? wtf?

kids 2&3: cord blood collected. vials of my blood collected. someone from the blood bank is suppose to call me to go through the questionnaire, but no one ever does. with 2 i called them and the woman in charge promised to call me back, but never did.

i still donate whole blood, tho. i need the t-shirts.

makita said...

See what I mean? I rest my case!

Anonymous said...

Well, I'm not sure what kind of statement you're trying to make by refusing to donate red blood cells, which can be used and can save many lives. Bone marrow transplants are a whole different issue, as is cord blood. Likely, these two expensive procedures are unrelated to your local blood donation program, which collects, stores, and transports blood directly to trauma and treatment centers where it is rapidly used. Refusing to easily save the lives of accident victims because you can't save the lives of bone-marrow recipients is counter-productive. Sounds like you somehow took it personally that bone-marrow typing is expensive. I'm pretty sure if they could do it as cheaply and easily as blood collection, they would. Meanwhile, you're effectively hurting others because you didn't like a policy.

ThingsYouWant said...

.... What does A have to do with B?

Swiss Kinist said...

You may want to also consider NOT being an organ donor. Do a simple google search of "Why I am not an organ donor" and do a bit of research.

Ashley Ernest said...

You should protest donating your blood anyway. Companies buy the blood you gave away for free so that insurance companies and hospitals can buy it and sell it to a person who needs blood. Not much of a donation to me. If it were a farm-to-table attitude, where I know you need blood, it is taken directly from me, then goes directly to you, that's donation.

Ashley Ernest said...

You should protest donating your blood anyway. Companies buy the blood you gave away for free so that insurance companies and hospitals can buy it and sell it to a person who needs blood. Not much of a donation to me. If it were a farm-to-table attitude, where I know you need blood, it is taken directly from me, then goes directly to you, that's donation.

Astral Venusian said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Astral Venusian said...

The medical field can't have a farm-to-table attitude because technology (meaning manufactured electronic and computerized devices which require programming and circuitry, lab equipment, and medical supplies such as tubing and syringes), procedures, and personnel cost money. If you don't think this is the case, I invite you to start your own blood bank or bone marrow transplant wing in a local hospital and see how far you get when you try to make the blood donation process money-free, from point A) donor to point B) patient. The refrigeration units that preserve the blood cost money. The buildings and lights and A/C units all cost money. The tests that determine the type of blood you have cost money. Money isn't required to plant seeds and harvest crops from the earth and feed a family, so the "farm-to-table" attitude is completely useless for a business model that is technology-driven. In the end, donating blood is a very selfless choice because you, the donor, are effectively saying the following with your actions: "At this point in time, it's NOT about money, it's about me taking time out of my day to ultimately increase the available supply of blood, and maybe there's some good karma or a blessing for me down the line; even if there isn't, I'm still happy to contribute because I'm a part of the community I live in." Why is everyone so constantly enraged at the medical/insurance companies when a LARGE percentage of Western health issues are rooted in poor lifestyle choices to begin with? The best way to fight against a gigantic and corrupt business is to drastically reduce the number of customers. It starts with healthy and WISE choices. And if you already are 100% healthy and perfectly wise, but still have a problem with the way the system works, here's a suggestion: Spend a couple of years in a developing nation and see what kinds of hospitals and blood programs there are. I guarantee you would not protest about blood donation anymore because you'll see how effective our hospital and blood bank system actually is when it comes to emergency situations. Money is a huge motivator to STRIVE to keep things running smoothly, REGARDLESS of corruption. At the end of the day, blood donation is about doing your best to HELP those in need, not trying to PREVENT some rich zombie in a suit from obtaining money (something rich zombies in suits will try to do their entire lives). I actually found this article because I wanted to see what kind of illogical person out there actually is against donating blood in the most medically advanced country (in terms of biotech and medical tech) on the planet. I'm sitting in a blood and marrow transplant wing of the hospital right now with my best friend who received a bone marrow transplant last year. She has received a LOT of blood and platelets since then, and is now on the road to recovery. If it weren't for this operation and all of the blood donations she received, she'd either be dead right now or suffering from an advanced blood disorder/cancer. If you don't want to donate blood because you have an issue with how the corrupt individuals you will NEVER persuade do business, you're just being illogical, because at the end of the day, it's not the corrupt individuals who are receiving your blood, but rather, a person in a comfortable hospital setting being treated with respect and the utmost care. If or when the day comes when you need blood, you'll be staring at the little bag of red fluid that's hooked up to your IV line and breathing a sigh of relief that you live where you do, and that there are donors who AREN'T protesting the system.