Before I start, if you're able to, please consider giving blood in the next few weeks. The UK has a very busy few months coming up and blood stocks are going to dwindle. As the supermarket I won't name says, "Every Little Helps". :D
I wanted to give blood as soon as I was able to. Our neighbours would go every six weeks and I thought what they were doing was amazing. I had the option to help people by giving, literally, a part of me that I didn’t need. And that’s all I wanted when I was younger, to help people.
So when I was in Lower Sixth I signed up. And I got invited to a donor session one night. And as weird as it sounds, I was oddly excited.
My mum wasn’t over the moon with my decision. Neither was my dad. They both thought it was too risky, that I wasn’t well enough, that I would suffer because of it, because I already gave enough of myself to others, not in a physical/bodily sense but I was always helping out with things at school.
I am pretty sure I told them it was my blood and so my decision. That’s what I said when I signed up to the Anthony Nolan Bone Marrow Register.
And I went. And I donated. And it went really, really well. I felt fine afterwards and there wasn’t much of a bruise. I drank my orange juice and ate my biscuit and felt perfectly healthy for the rest of the night.
Then the next morning I fainted in the bathroom.
I used to faint a lot in the bathroom. It would always be first thing in the morning. I put it down to getting out of bed too fast. There was one time when I was getting ready for school and fainted. After I came round I went downstairs and told my dad. “Oh,” he said, “that was the bang I heard.” Another time I fainted off the toilet and hit my shoulder on the sink and the toothbrush holder on the way down. That left a very impressive bruise. There were numerous other times when I realised I was going to faint and so sat down until it passed.
It never fazed me. It was just something that happened. I was an ill child. I always had a cold or a cough or was on antibiotics. I put it down to never going to nursery; I started reception with an immune system that had only been exposed to family members. I haven’t fainted in a few years now. I think the last time was the toilet story, and that was (I think) in my first year at uni. I’m pretty sure it’s a blood pressure thing. Mine’s normally about 110/70, although when the GP checked a few weeks ago before she prescribed me propranolol for my fluoxetine tremors it was about 100/65.
Anyway, so I fainted. I was determined to give again but the appointments they sent me were always during exam times and mum flat refused to let me go.
Then I went again in November 2010. Everything was going fine until they pricked my finger. Apparently I was anaemic.
I’ve been anaemic for as long as I can remember. My brother is the same. I’m what I like to call “transiently anaemic” – sometimes my iron levels are normal, other times they’re a little low. I’ve been advised to take iron tablets and, when I remember, I do. There’s no internal cause, nothing wrong with my diet. They tested for the thalassemia gene and the results came back borderline inconclusive, so I’m either anaemic or a carrier for one of the most evil diseases in the world. Either way, they wouldn’t take my blood.
Fine, that makes sense. My health comes first.
I went again yesterday. With all the public events that the UK is hosting this year there have been numerous adverts requesting people go give blood. Now I’ve been trying to all year but they were always fully booked. But I decided I would go yesterday and hang around until they could fit me in.
Everything went fine until the interview.
She called for a staff nurse because I had had a sigmoidoscopy (for my IBS) about four years ago. I think I had finally convinced her that my IBS and anaemia were utterly under control (I had taken an iron tablet and a generic multi-vitamin and iron tablet that morning to make sure) when she asked how the first donation went. And then she flat out refused to let me donate, despite the fact that they were going to let me the second time until the anaemia thing came up. Apparently “guidelines change”.
I may have gotten a bit annoyed. All I wanted to do was help. I have a lot of little individual things wrong with me, and some larger things, but I feel healthy. I am me, if that makes sense. None of my illnesses – with the exception of the depression – have much of an effect on me anymore; they’re just part of my life.
Either way, I have now been “clinically withdrawn” from the blood donor list, which sounds pretty indefinite. Apparently it won’t affect anything if I’m a bone marrow match. And God help anyone who stands in my way if a family member needs a blood transfusion.
I keep seeing Give Blood adverts. And even though there’s nothing I can do about it, I still feel a little guilty that I can’t help.
Edit (29/5/2012 at 3:39pm): On the advice of brokenangel I rang the NHSBT to discuss the withdrawal. They were very, very nice about it all and said they may be able to let me re-register in 5 yeas. He also said "cheerio". I haven't heard anyone say "cheerio" except in old movies before!