Why can I not give blood, you ask?
Is it because I am sick?: No.
Is it because I have do not have enough iron in my blood?: No.
Is it because I have an incurable disease?: No.
Have I gotten a tattoo within the last 12 months?: No.
Answer: I can not give blood because I have, since 1980, lived in the United Kingdom for a total time that adds up to 3 months, and lived in Europe for a total time that adds up to 6 months.
Ah, of course! That makes total sense!
Oh, wait! What?!
That's right, people! I cannot give blood until they...
- A) ...Figure out if I have MAD COW.
- B) ...Learn - beyond a shadow of a doubt - how MAD COW is transmitted from the bovine population to humans.
- C) ...Find a cure for MAD COW (at least for people).
I love that the government is, in a matter of speaking, waiting for me to loose my mind. A very reassuring feeling, let me tell you.
Now it is important to note the following:
- 1) I studied in London for six months in the year 2000 (but left the county almost half a year before the MAD COW epidemic unfolded).
- 2) I also studied in Italy for an additional three months immediately following my coursework in London. Thus, my total time on the continent of Europe was just over nine months.
- 3) I stopped eating beef in either 1994 or 1995, and I still have yet to reintroduce it to my digestive system. Therefore, in 2000, while I was studying in the U.K. I was not eating anything MAD or COW. I still don't, and have no immediate plans to start anytime soon, either.
- 4) If you flew to London, got off the plane, went to dinner, ate a huge steak every night for a week during the peak of the MAD COW epidemic, got back on a plane and flew home - you can STILL give blood today.
- 5) My brother interned on a safari ranch in South Africa for three months. He can still give blood.
Apparently, it may take up to SEVEN YEARS for symptoms of the disease to present themselves after exposure to a MAD COW. So, theoretically, I may get sick in the next year or two (again, it is always nice to know that I may or may not develop an incurable disease that will literately eat holes in my brain at one point or another in the very near future). However, I'm guessing that even after the seven years of "quarantine" (assuming, of course, that I haven't developed symptoms of MAD COW) I still won't be able to give blood. After all, 1980 was 26 years ago, so it seems ridiculous to think that my blood donor status will change any time soon!
Now, don't get me wrong, I am all for keeping the blood supply safe and disease-free. I appreciate that not just anyone can donate blood, and that there are additional tests administered on the blood (after the initial screening of the donor) before the blood is ever deemed safe-enough to be utilized.
It is just that there always seems to be a shortage of blood in hospitals and blood banks around the country. I cannot help but think of the thousands - if not millions - of people that cannot give blood because they have lived in Europe, of all places.
Plus, it's not like MAD COW hasn't been discovered in the U.S.
It was in December, 2003.
Not to mention the deer and elk version of MAD COW (I think it is called something like "Chronic Wasting Disease") which is supposedly widespread in the Western U.S. and Canada.
So, why aren't we quarantining the blood of all Americans?
Oh, wait. That's right. It would be unrealistic.
But is it really...?
Medically speaking, MAD COW can be transmitted to any animal with a brain - not just to bovine and human populations. The disease has been detected in everything from sheep to deer to pigs to even cats and dogs.
Plus, there is enough scientific evidence to suggest that - in order to get MAD COW - you have physically consume part of an infected animal or its bodily excretions. So, it really has nothing to do with living in the U.K. or Europe. The Red Cross should be much more concerned with what people were eating when they were over there in the first place! Again, if you flew into Gatwick or Heathrow in January, 2001 (at the height of the British MAD COW epidemic) and ate a huge steak during your lay-over - you can still give blood!
MAD COW is a serious disease, but I - personally - do not think that any headway is being made by quarantining the blood of individuals purely because they've traveled to abroad to other "first-world countries" and lived there. The disease, if contracted by a human, is almost always fatal in the first eighteen months after exposure. Yet, people like me cannot donate blood if we've spent more than a fourth of a year in Europe in the past 26 years.
I'm sorry. I find that be rather ridiculous.
And this is coming from the daughter of a cattle rancher, by the way. Just because I do not eat beef (or, for that matter, dear, pigs, sheep, dogs or cats), doesn't mean that I don't have a lot at steak here (pun intended).
I just want to do my part to help people, and it bothers me that the Red Cross is waiting for me to turn into this: