Thursday, July 7, 2011

On the limitations of being English

Don't worry, this isn't a rant about national identity or frustration about how Brits are viewed abroad etc. This is about one particular thing which I have been barred from for being English.

Blood donation.

I went to the blood bank today (because it stays open a bit later and I could go after work) to give blood and to give a sample for the bone marrow donor registry. All went well for the first 45 minutes, despite a few French/English communication problems and the most UNHELPFUL doctor on the planet. She was just standing in the room, arms crossed, staring into space. I asked a question. She said I had to go through the procedure properly and speak to Doctor A (currently engaged with a patient) before speaking to her. I explained that I had already asked Doctor A this question, and he thought I was asking for a translation of a word rather than an explanation of the risks the word referred to. She just said, you can ask him. Great.

Finally got in to see Doctor A, who looked about 85. Took my blood pressure, asked my weight, looked at me in some surprise and condescension when I confessed I didn't know my height in centimetres. To be honest, I was more surprised that they had nothing to measure me with. Are the budgets so tight they can't manage a tape measure up a door frame?

Well, we made it through the medical questions more or less. Finally after 45 minutes of paperwork, waiting and questions, we got to this one:
Did you spend any time in the UK between 1980 and 1996?
I had ticked yes, and this totally confused Doctor A. He asked why I would be in the UK at this time. Please note that at the top of my file it says that I am British and born in London (before 1996, as you might guess). Nevertheless, he cannot think of a reason I might have been in the UK in those years. I patiently explained that I had lived there.

He then explained to me that, because I happened to live in the same country as a mad cow disease outbreak fifteen years ago, I would never be able to give blood or any blood products in Belgium. Can anyone explain the medical reasoning behind this to me? Or why, in the UK, there is no such restriction?


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