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Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Blood Drive

Blood Drive, originally uploaded by Christopher Rauch.

     I gave blood for the first time in high school as a sophomore in ’84. Needles held no fear for me, the ex Allergy Shot Poster Child, and the novelty of being excused from school to be bussed to the rec department is one of my last memories before being asked to sever my relationship with the Houston County Board of Education. Since then, I have given blood many times. Things are a little different now, They no longer use the blue juice to see if your blood sinks, checking for enough iron. Nowadays they use a device that looks more like a blood sugar monitor. Another thing that is different is the prevalence of  invisible death, 2 diseases  that will kill you, and that you can only catch by exchanging essences with another human. There is also some brain eating disease connected somehow to spending more than three months in England, and/or  having used a certain pituitary growth hormone. It doesn’t seem to make sense to me. The Red Cross site gives some fascinating historical information and some interesting statistics:

  • 1pint of blood can save three lives
  • Every two seconds, someone needs a transfusion
  • In the United States, five million people a year need blood.
  • Less than 38 percent of the population can give blood.
  • Some blood components have a shelf life of only 5 days

     This poses some interesting logistics issues, further complicated by the fact that not all blood is the same, you can’t just suck out some blood from donor 1 and shoot it into recipient 2. This can kill people. The Red Cross has got a big job, and I’m sure I don’t know the half of it, but I wonder about the boundaries, if they are a reflection of politics and marketing as much as genuine safety. If you’ve had a recent tattoo, ever shot dope without paying a doctor to a assist or ever been intimate with someone else’s penis, while possessing one of your own, they would like you to remain a part of the 62% of the population that is ineligible. This is statistics at work. Each donor’s blood is tested for infectious diseases at one of the Red Cross’s five national laboratories. and I would like to think that they are effective. Could we not increase the amount of available blood while decreasing the amount of labor and resources need to obtain it by relaxing these guidelines a little?
     Being in the system, I have received 2 phone calls and 2 glossy, very nicely appointed mailers letting me know about this last Tuesday’s blood drive.  That stuff is expensive. I wonder if the eligible population was larger, could the Red Cross spend less on marketing, and shift some of those resources to something else? Perhaps establishing caches of disaster supplies near heliports, would be a good idea, as Arod in San Francisco suggested in a recent post. A more efficient disaster response could conceivably reduce violent crime in disaster areas, which would possibly have a slight mitigating impact on blood requirements. I don’t really know the answers to any of these questions, but from a stewardship perspective are we minimalizing our blood supply out of fear for public opinion on Red Cross safety measures or are the disease scanning protocols not as effective as one would hope, and do the risk categories provide a little statistical cushion needed to keep transfusion recipients from dropping like flies from AIDS and Hep C?
     Has fear been a factor in setting these guidelines? I wonder.

I haven't got all day, originally uploaded by Christopher Rauch.

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