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? ūü§£