February 12th, 2004

Giving Blood

I gave blood today, as I do a few times a year. Long ago I only gave during company blood drives, which meant once a year. Now I give more regularly. That started when my wife noticed a request in a Montessori preschool newsletter. A little boy, a classmate of my daughter Felicia, was afflicted with Sickle Cell Anemia, and occasionally needed O positive blood. The boy's parents were looking for someone with "safe" blood. This was in the late eighties, and the blood supply was going through a problem period with AIDS. Well, I volunteered. The boy only needed blood when he had an acute episode of sickness, which was a little too often for his parents' peace of mind. Of course, no one knew when the attacks would come. This led me to only give for the boy, since if I gave for general purposes I would be disqualified from giving for 8 weeks, and if the boy got sick during those 8 weeks I would have failed him. This went on for some number of years. Eventually, the boys sickle cell anemia was gotten under control, and the blood supply got much cleaner, and I fell out of touch with his parents. I hope he is doing well.

I don't know if this is a federal rule or just an Illinois rule, but it is illegal around here to be paid for donating blood for transfusions. It wasn't always this way. When I was a kid... fifties... sixties... you could get paid for contributing a pint for transfusion. There was a problem with the system, namely that "winos" and "bums" were major donors, since this was an easy way to make money, but these people often carried diseases like hepatitis. To solve this problem, the market for transfusion blood was prohibited. But I see that we now have a new problem which is periodic shortages of blood. I know how to solve that problem... we could PAY people for donating blood.

Of course, the market has been squeezed out of a lot of our health care system, and it's a shame. Fortunately, the market does still operate to some extent. That's why people who can't get operations elsewhere, because the line is too long, come to the U.S.

I told my daughter that the phlebotomists were scientific vampires. Mythical vampires take your blood to live forever. Phlebotomists take your blood so that somebody can live longer.

Rhyme of the day:

When I am bled
I get a light head.