05 October 2007

Blood and Guts

Are you signed up to be an organ donor?

Irish Goddess wrote a lovely post last year, a thank you to the person who became a heart donor for her father. As it happens, she just referenced that old post and it struck a chord with me as I've been thinking about organ donation and blood donation recently.

Several months ago, another blogger wrote about her sister-in-law's receipt of a double lung transplant, and it prompted me to sign up, on-line, through my state's donor registry. I just got the paperwork back in the mail - it's a little eerie to contemplate my own demise, but if it happens in such a way that there are usable organs, they should be recycled.

But.

Last weekend, our town had a little fair - local merchants, community organizations, hot dogs, a bouncy house, and free tote bags from every single real estate agent around. And the Blood Mobile was there. I've been wanting to give blood and it seemed like the perfect opportunity as W. was there to mind the irascible one. So I sat down and filled out their form - no untoward sexual history, no illicit needle use, no dread diseases. Good to go? No. I spent four months in London in 1982 - and if you've spent more than three months in the aggregate in the UK between 1980 and 1996, you are "indefinitely deferred". I can't give blood. I might have bovine spongiform encephalopathy (mad cow disease). Argh.

So, here are my questions.

1) If I can't give blood, can I be an organ donor? Unclear - a 2001 CDC article implies that blood and organ donations both pose a risk of transmittal, but the same article says that US policy is to exclude "donations from anyone who has lived in or visited the UK for a cumulative period of 6 months or more during 1980 to 1996". So either, the rules have changed since that article was published or the New York Blood Center has more stringent guidelines.

2) Who can give blood in the UK? If the rule is the same there, that would mean only children and recent immigrants can give blood. But if the recipient lived in the UK in that same time frame, they'd have the same risk factor. So it would be okay to give blood in the UK today if you'd spent three months there between 1980 and 1996? The head spins.

This is all neither here nor there. Are you an organ donor? You should be.

24 comments:

niobe said...

This has only the most tangential relevance to your post, but I've come to realize that I have a phobia about mad cow disease. And I've never spent any extended period of time in the UK. (what were you doing there, anyway?)

slouching mom said...

I am an organ donor, and I have been listed as such since I was in my twenties.

I feel very strongly about this.

Beck said...

Hey, my dad is a Canadian beef farmer so I know ALL ABOUT Mad Cow disease! It's not something I worry about, though.
Am I an organ donor? Um, maybe I should check that, eh?

MotherPie said...

I'm not an organ donor... I have mixed feelings about this. Partly because of the awful trade in body parts that I became aware of...

Janet said...

I am, or at least I signed that little card in my wallet. However, I learned that your family can override the card after you die. So it's really important to make sure your loved ones know that you feel strongly about it.

Suz said...

I am. It's right there on my license.

S. said...

I'm an organ donor, but the last time I gave blood the techs told me not to do it again.

Apparently, it's not supposed to hurt while the needle is in. Who knew? For me, it was always something I did because the pain and tears and gritting my teeth and breathing my way through it were worth saving a life. But apparently, that is not how the blood donation techs see it.

Pinky said...

I read your post and went directly to the state website and registered my organs. I am so obedient.

Anjali said...

I've been listed as an organ donor since I turned 18. And I'm sure to remind family whenever the topic comes up, that if anything should ever happen to me, I want every useful scrap of me given to someone who needs it.

Irish Goddess said...

Aww, Thanks Magpie! What a nice post. I hope you find your answers about donating. This is definitely an emotional and complex issue, but I can't help but believe that if more of us were donors it would resolve some of the negative issues such as organ farming.

BipolarLawyerCook said...

I am, but I'm afraid they'll only use my more "exterior" organs because of all the meds I take on a daily basis. But still, if someone needs retinas, they can have 'em!

My husband had hepatitis A once in 1983 because someone at a mcdonald's didn't wash his hands, and he can't give blood or get life insurance.

painted maypole said...

I am.

and it's really important that your next of kin know this and are ready to honor your wishes, because that matters more than any box you've ever checked.

Jess said...

I am an organ donor too, but did spend about a month in the UK in 1982. That's a LONG time ago, and who decides what amount of time counts as a risk for carrying mad cow?

WorksForMom said...

Yes and Yes. This is such an important post. Thanks for raising the awareness on this question magpie.

Scribbit said...

I am, it makes up for the fact that I'm not a blood donor. I have this thing about needles.

Aliki2006 said...

I can't give blood, either, and I'm ashamed to say I am not signed up as an organ donor.

Rimarama said...

Yep. My uncle got an extra five year lease on life thanks to organ donation.

I'm also barred from blood donation because I lived in France for a year in the early nineties.

Aurelia said...

By the time you pass Maggie, which will be many many years from now it will be irrelevant whether or not you lived in the UK.

The only reason they are doing this, is because they have no test for BSE. Many years ago, there was no test for HIV or hepatitis and the rules were even stricter. But after the test was created, they changed the rule.

Someday soon they will develop a test for BSE, and no one will care. Same for most other diseases.

And the rules are different for blood and organ donations, and even for certain organs. So, even if they can't use your liver, maybe they can use your skin or corneas.

I signed the papers and just left it up to them to decide what they want!

Veronica Mitchell said...

The British thing for mad cow disease is a somewhat debated rule on blood donation. I would list yourself as an organ donor anyway, because in the years before your (ahem) possible donation, that rule could be changed.

MadMad said...

I'm in! On? Anyway, I'm a donor. It is an interesting question about the UK, though... Vegetarians and immigrants only, maybe?

Omaha Mama said...

I am an organ donor. Have been since the first time I got my license. Just seems like a no brainer.

No clue whether you can be or not. It seems like they could test people for the mad cow and then let them donate blood and organs. Huh.

Lapa said...

I woudn't bother. After death.

CRISTÓVÃO DE AGUIAR.

Lindsay said...

I honestly have never thought about it, which is odd considering I feel like a responsible and giving person. Thanks for the reminder.

liz said...

I'm signed up to be an organ donor. And I'm a platelet donor when I'm not too anemic.