Having the Red Stuff

Just the other day, I was allowed to give again.

It’s exciting news for UK expats. For the first time in nearly 40 years, people who lived in the UK in the early-mid 1980s are allowed to donate blood and blood products in Australia. At long last, the risk of potentially passing on variant-CJD is considered tiny enough that there is insufficient reason any long to exclude willing donors. Consider the interesting information that since that announcement was made, 21,000 former UK residents have stepped up to become donors. That’s just under 0.1% of the total population. We’ve waited patiently, and at last, we’re acceptable!

I first gave blood in the UK in 1994, following some fairly significant surgery during which I received a blood transfusion. I thought it was appropriate to give back, and kept it up for years until I emigrated.

I received my 25 donations badge and my Bronze donor card. I gave blood regularly and I think was turned away on only one occasion when my haemoglobin was too low. I got to know the phlebotomists at the Margaret Street Donor Centre in central London by name.

And then I emigrated in the early 2000s. Imagine my horror when I discovered they didn’t want my blood Down Under… I do get it, but I developed a distressing habit of yelling angrily at the TV whenever there was an ad asking for new donors. I did donate blood again on my visits back to the UK, but it has been years since I was able to travel that distance, so even that avenue was closed to me.

And then, a few weeks ago, they announced they were removing the ban. So I phoned and made an appointment, and I’m back at it. I admit, I do represent a slight challenge in that they can only use my left arm, in which there are only two usable veins. (Cancer and chemotherapy does wreck your veins, sadly). But they’re up to the challenge, and it was painless, and I was foolishly pleased when they told me I filled up my little bag nice and fast.

Oh, and the post-donation snacks are miles better than in the UK. You diddn’t get sausage rolls or Byron Bay cookies in London! So if you’re a UK expat Down Under who’s missed ‘doing something amazing’, get your backside down to the nearest Red Cross donor centre, and do that amazing thing again.  I’m just waiting for the phone app to prompt me it’s time to go again.

And my group? A+, of course. I am the eternal optimist. How could it be anything else? 🤣

38 thoughts on “Having the Red Stuff

  1. That’s awesome & such a worthy cause. I had absolutely no idea this was the case.!!! I’ve only ever been twice as my levels are not acceptable… but J goes regularly till he was told since he has Malaria in India the plasma could not be used anymore… so that was that ….
    Nowadays I give blood every two months but that’s only to check all my levels 🫣

    • katechiconi says:

      The Husband has been a donor for years, so I didn’t have to persuade him to do it, but it used to gall me that I had to sit and watch him do it and be unable to contribute myself despite being very willing…

  2. Dayphoto says:

    I A- and I give blood, yes, I do.

  3. Fantastic Kate!
    We both have the same Blood type! I am A+ as well.

  4. Yay you! I understand the feeling your blood isn’t wanted. I bleed too slowly. I was told blood that isn’t fully collected within a certain time frame has to be discarded. Still, I showed up to do my part until I was told not to come back. I came back one more time anyway to offer a direct donation for my mother, who was having surgery. The nurse kept kneading my arm trying to get it to bleed. After that I was told, again, to keep my blood to myself. Now I’m on blood thinners, so I should try again. Thank you for the reminder.

  5. This is terrific news, Kate. They ask that question here whenever I give blood. The screening process is quite extensive. Thank you for giving life.

    • katechiconi says:

      We get given a tablet with a long questionnaire on arrival, which takes about 15 mins to complete. I’m pretty happy to be allowed to take it, now!

      • I fully understand. It’s truly life-giving donating blood. In just the past six months, we can now log on to our computer at home the day of the donation and answer the questions. When you show up for your appointment, you just flash your QR code and off you go.

      • katechiconi says:

        That seems sensible… I expect we’ll go that way too at some stage, but to be honest, I rather like hanging around there: nice chats with other donors, comfy red sofa, and the soothing ‘bong’ of the alarm going off when the bag is full!

  6. claire93 says:

    same applies here Kate (France). I used to be a blood donor in the UK during student days. Did become a blood donor in France too in the late 80s, until they put the same ban on UK expats over CJD. As far as I know, the ban is still in place. I’ll have to check.

    • katechiconi says:

      I think they just decided that 40 years with no significant cases was probably long enough to exclude us. Good luck, I hope your investigations have a positive result.

  7. claire93 says:

    me again – just checked and France still doesn’t want mine. (with the “did you travel or stay for more than 1 year in the UK between 1/1/1980 and 31/12/1996 question”).

  8. blimey that is a step up on the biccy front!

    • katechiconi says:

      Yes indeed! Also, in our local brach, one of the nurses brings in home-made scones, jam and cream. WIth incentives like that, they can have as much as they like!

  9. Going Batty in Wales says:

    I have given regularly for several years but last time my iron level was too low and they politely declined it. I cant ive until a whole year after that. But I will go back when they let me.

    • katechiconi says:

      A whole year seems excessive… The Husband had that once, and it was actually handy because we discovered his iron levels are chronically low and he now needs an iron supplement for life. But they only made him wait till his next blood test was normal.

      • Going Batty in Wales says:

        It happened to me once before and even though |I was seen by my GP and pronounce ‘btter’ I still had to wait!

  10. I’m so happy you are able to donate again. I was successful once. Apparently, I’m very stingy with my blood all the time. They can’t get enough to fill the sack and have to toss it. Good thing I don’t need blood tests often. That can be an iffy process. It usually doesn’t go well. I’m AB+

  11. Marty K says:

    So glad you can give again! I have a nice spigot in my right arm. We need to up our snacks game, though — Oz puts us to shame.

    • katechiconi says:

      Indeed, the snacks were an eye-opener after the cup of tea and bicky of the UK! There’s a fridge full of cold drinks, tea, coffee and hot chocolate, a big array of savoury and sweet snacks, and absolutely no pressure to move on and get out of their hair.

  12. Skipper May says:

    Well done Kate! One of my retirement goals was to become a donor but because I had lived in the UK, I wasn’t able to. Once the rules changed, I was on the phone pronto and have made my first donation and appointment made for the next one. I’ve always been a positive person so no surprise to find I am O+….and yes, the snacks are first class!

    • katechiconi says:

      Well done! If all the former UK residents came forward now, I’m pretty sure the low blood stocks issue would go away. As it is, 21,000 new donors since the announcement is pretty impressive.

  13. kymlucas says:

    I was always too afraid of needles until cancer. Now, I’m no longer afraid, but have learned I have only one “good” vein, and it’s in the arm that can’t be stuck due to no longer having lymph nodes on that side. I know this sounds like an excuse, but I well remember the massive bruises I sustained on both arms when the phlebotomist tried to find a vein to use for a scan using contrast dye. And that was when they could try both arms. I will always be grateful for my port and the excellent nurses who managed to get me through chemo … without bruises.

    • katechiconi says:

      Yes, my right arm is still a no-go area for the same reason, although I see some fairly sturdy-looking veins there. I have some fairly epic post-first-chemo bruising photos which I used to convince my oncologist that a PICC line was actually necessary after all… These days, I always give phlebotomists The Talk before any needle procedure, and so far, the one easy- and one hard-to-reach vein have held up.

  14. gwenniesgardenworld says:

    How lovely to hear you can give blood again, all my family (me, husband ,son, daughter-in-law)gave blood, and now none of us may give blood anymore so like you I get angry when they ask for blooddonors. My husband and sun had cancer, I had a gastric bypass, my daughter-in-law has other healthproblems and they don’t want us now however my son’s cancer was 10 years ago. It angers me as there is a huge shortage in blood. Go for it ! I wish I could.

    • katechiconi says:

      Here, you’re allowed to give blood again after 5 years cancer-free.

      • gwenniesgardenworld says:

        They need blood so badly but if they keep so many people banned from giving for some reason or other, they will get in trouble. I am banned from giving cos it takes too long for me to get my blood in order again, but if they need my blood I’d be happy to give, even it is perhaps only half of what others give.

  15. As well as the rest of us who already know you and recognise that you are a champion, somewhere here in Australia there are people who don’t know you but whose lives are all the better for your contribution.

  16. Debbierose says:

    Well done, and lifting the ban as we know it, long overdue

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