Saturday, November 8, 2008

Excitement blown away

Tushar, Anees and I were very excited that we would be doing a good cause by donating blood this weekend. Little did we know that some 'unkind' U.S. rules would blow away the act of 'kindness'.

I had donated blood in my office back in India a couple of times too. Donating blood is the least we can do to save lives. And why not do it when we are healthy and young? I got myself registered for Platelet Apheresis at the Heartland Blood Center in Schaumburg. Cancer patients, those receiving organ or bone marrow transplants, victims of traumatic injuries, and patients undergoing open heart surgery require platelet transfusions to survive. Platelets can be stored only for 5 days and hence the need is vast and continuous. Besides, I had not donated platelets anytime; so was curious to know what it is and what the procedure was.

I logged on to the site and read through all the information posted for donors. I made sure I covered all the pre and post donate conditions and precautions listed out there. Person has to be above 18 yrs of age; above 110 pounds; should not have any major diseases mentioned on the site; not have had tattoo in last 1 yr; and hence forth. I did qualify for blood donation and so very excited about the whole idea.

I was not able to get any appointment except for the 7:00 am to 9:00 am slot morning on a Saturday morning. Getting up early for a good cause; sure - why not. I wanted to do it as soon as possible so this Saturday was the earliest I could get else I had to wait for few more weeks. I was surprised at the same time happy to know that all slots were filled; that means many people are involved in this kind deed.

They had mentioned that it is recommended to eat something within the four hours preceding the donation. Now, does that mean I had to eat at 3:00 in the morning? I did not want to take a chance of fainting or trouble the staff in case I felt ill because of not eating after the donation.

The previous night I got Chinese noodles parcelled from one of my favourite restaurants. The quantity was enough for two people! I was very hungry after work so had an early dinner and went to bed. Normally I don't sleep before mid night, but I did not want to miss the appointment; so slept at 8:30 pm itself. Well, that's not it. I also woke up in the middle of the night to eat the rest of my dinner :) I was well-prepared for my task!!!

I reached the blood center few minutes before time. The lady at the reception was very helpful. She started my paper work early even though the office was still not open. She made me fill some information related to medicines I take, illness if any and Travel. Travel? Well, I was not sure why that was needed.
Since it was my first time at the center, I was told that they would not be able to do Platelet Apheresis but can do the Whole blood donation. I was fine. I should have called in earlier and checked on this. But anyway. It would just take 10 minutes now and not 2 long hrs. It would have saved me some time this morning and I could have planned better.

I was directed to go and sit in a small room; I knew this was it. The real deal; time I was waiting for. She went through the form I had entered. Which state in India are you from? I said Goa and spelled it out. "You are going to hate me for this." she said.

What was it? She showed me a book with the rules for eligibility. Against India it was typed 'DEFER'. I did not know what that meant and neither did she know why it was marked deferred for a particular country; specially India where more than 10% immigrants are from India in the U.S. She called her colleague for help. She explained.

Well, the FDA rules say that a person eligible for blood donation should have stayed in the U.S. for at least 3 years from today. That means I should have been the the U.S. since Nov 2005. I was surprised and disappointed at the same time. Who would stay that long in a foreign land? Won't we visit or travel in between? Well, if you have travelled for a period of say 1 week then the time gap should be 1 yr. OMG! I felt bad; and dizzy. Thank God I had had a good meal :)
The lady told me that I should wait for 2 more yrs to donate. What! That was very sad indeed.

Here I am eager to help and some rules in the country are stopping me from helping mankind. I felt very bad and angry on the U.S. rules. Isn't my blood good enough to help someone in the U.S.? I tried to make sense out of it. I knew it was for security reasons and the FDA knows what is best for the people. The lady at the center was very sorry I could not donate; and I was early too. But she said she appreciated my gesture.

Once I was home, I looked up on the site again.
It said - Due to Malarial risk, anyone who has traveled outside the U. S. or Canada should check with Donor Services Staff to determine eligibility. Among others, regions at risk of malaria include most sub-Saharan African and many Asian countries, some states of Mexico, areas in Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, China, Cost Rica, El Salvador, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Venezuela, Dominican Republic, Haiti and others. Refer to staff for details.

So India fell under the Malaria Area. How I wish India as well as other countries mentioned above were safe like any other healthy countries in the world.

I should have checked with the staff before registering. Someone else could have used my time-slot for donation. Anees and Tushar both did not qualify either. So I got their appointments cancelled so that their trip to the center was saved.

Waking early was good anyways. I now have a story to share and can help people be aware of such rules in the future.


Anees said...

On a nice working day while having our regular chat at office i came to know of Shreya's plan of blood donation. it took me hardly 5 min to register myself and book an appointment. i have already experienced the joy of saving one's life while i was in college and was looking forward to the Saturday morning.

I had told couple of friends to wake me up just in case and was busy cooking a breakfast, which i generally skip on weekends, when i got a call from Shreya conveying that we cannot do donation :(.

i am sad and hope that nobody suffers because of shortage of blood, the blood that we wanted to donate. Shreya's B +ve blood group should be able to keep her in a positive frame of mind :) however what about me? O -ve. the Universal blood donor? the rare group?

I pledge that whenever i go to India next i will do a blood donation within the first few days of being in India.

Hoping for the best and that all the countries in the world become a healthy living place for the human beings.


Abhishek Sohani said...

:-) you are from the malaria region and plus u had CHINESE FOOD!! ... two reasons you should not donate :P

I am imagining Amar, Akbar, Anthony.. where u , anees and tushar are on bed and blood directly flows from 3 of you to a patient.. :D:D hehe...

on a serious note, it looks a bit sad when u think that u can not donate when ppl need it. But then the risk of giving a contaminated blood to a person already sick and low on fighting power is even more.. know a couple of cases where ppl actually discovered diseases after india vacation after a few months..!
diseases like cancer, ppl don't really die of cancer, but they die of various diseases u become prone to like malaria, jaundice, pneumonia..
even in india when u donate blood, it doesnt really get used directly. u just replace the blood the doctors used for their purpose..

in walgreens many times they do have blood drives, but i cud never donate :-( donating blood gives such a good feeling.. u feel light .. happy that its a good deed and atleast in india u get good coffee and buiscuits after that :D

once in india one of my cousins cousin had bone marrow cancer.. and needed to replace a lot of blood for himself.. i informed a lot of ppl in my college and atleast 20 of them donated.. i remember when i was there in hospital, one girl came to donate.. she was plump and the nurse could not find her vein. So what she did? she put the needle in and tried to see if it hit the vein... no luck.. she did not take the needle out, just changed direction and poked further..!!
for some 2 minutes she kept poking to find the vein.. my god!

btw one more thing, in india, there is a facility that onec u donate blood, later u can get the report.. just to know if they found something.. if there were any infections.. not sure if thats the case in US though....

Abhishek Sohani said...

and u know what..! one of the times i donated blood, doc was so impressed with my healthy body, that she decided to take 300 ml instead of standard 250! :-O