Trying to give blood in the UK and SA

I’m so frustrated right now. I’ve been trying to donate blood for 10 years but have been refused every time. When I was younger it was usually because I had a recent piercing or tattoo. Fair enough, the needles do come with a risk of infection, especially with some of the dodgy parlours around. Since my early twenties it is a whole different reason though, and one that I can’t really comprehend. In the UK there are stringent guidelines as to who can give blood and who cannot. I have always been lumped in the latter group as I have committed the ultimate sin – I’ve done it with a South African. Basically, in the UK you cannot donate if you have had sex with a Saffer in the last 2 years. You know, because all South African’s have HIV and AIDS. Also, if you haven’t had sex with them in the last 2 years then the disease that you definitely caught from them must have magically cleared up.

I was married to a South African. I remember as clear as day how disgusted the African nurse was when she was filling out my sexual health questionnaire and was ticking no to all of the questions that I answered, almost skipping over them without waiting for my negative response (because I look like such an angel obviously). She went to skip over “Ever had sexual intercourse with someone from Africa?”                                                       “My fiancé is South African”                                                                                                     “What?!?” <a look of clear disgust on her face> “When was his last AIDS test?”                   Er, none of your business lady. We are talking about my sexual history not his.

And so it went on. I waited patiently for 2 years after I split up with my ex, and then Rob and I went to the blood bank to donate. Easy right? Wrong. I couldn’t donate as I had a cold, and Rob couldn’t donate as my ex was South African. WTF?!?!

Since we have been in SA there has been a huge drive for blood donation here – the picture above is taken from the SANBS website – I kinda like it! SA is running seriously low on blood stocks. I really do urge all of you South African’s to do the right thing and donate ASAP if you are healthy enough to do so. Not you expat’s though. Oh no. My trip today was as follows:

“Hi, I’d like to see if I can donate blood. I’m British but I’ll be here for a few years”          “Yes, that’s fine. I’ll get the nurse to take your history”                                                       “Great. I did wonder if I would be allowed as I wasn’t allowed to donate in the UK due to my partner being South African”                                                                                                  “Well we do not discriminate here, as long as you are healthy. This is the nurse that will take your history”                                                                                                                         “Hello. You have an accent”                                                                                                           “Yes, I’m from the UK”                                                                                                                     “Where?”                                                                                                                                        “London”                                                                                                                                          “What do you want?”                                                                                                                      “Well, I’m here for a couple of years and would really like to donate blood throughout my stay”                                                                                                                                                     “No”                                                                                                                                                   “Huh?”                                                                                                                                                     “No”                                                                                                                                                   “What do you mean no? Why not?”                                                                                                   “We do not accept foreign blood as if something happens we will not be able to trace you. How will we find you in London?” <starts laughing hysterically as if I’m an idiot> “Come back when you get permanent residency”                                                                                   “That would be in 5 years time then if we decide to stay”                                                         “See you in 5 years then”

AAAAAARRRRRRGGGGGGGHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Seriously dudes. How hard can this be?! I just want to donate some of my freaking blood. I’m fit and healthy and have the medical records to prove it. I had to undergo all manner of x-rays, blood tests and sexual infection screening to get my visa to stay here.

Please can you all donate for me instead?!?! In the UK it is through http://blood.co.uk/ and in SA it is http://www.sanbs.org.za/. Not to be confused with the facebook group “Students Against Nasty Butt Cleavage” which is what I first found when I googled. For any other countries, please google blood donation and your local service will come up.

I just read on the UK site, that only 4% of people donate blood in the UK, meaning 96% of the population rely on these stocks to save their life should they ever find themselves in any kind of medical situation where they need blood. I really find that figure quite astounding. Get donating people!

And no, the irony that I was married to a South African but moved to SA with a Brit is not wasted on me. It’s just the way the cookie crumbled.

**edited to say that after Rob read this post he emailed me to say that his company do blood drives through SANBS and he had asked if he could donate. They initially said no to the untraceable foreign blood, but then when he said that he was here for 2 years they said that we can donate and to come down next blood drive. Of course, we will get there and be turned away……**

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5 thoughts on “Trying to give blood in the UK and SA

  1. Hi Martina, thank you for this post. I have been a blood donor since the day I turned 16 (I am now 47) I am very passionate about giving blood and have donated over 40 units. I donated 30 in Zimbabwe before we came down on our 2 year inter office transfer. Once I arrived in South Africa 6 years ago I came up against the SANBS and their strange rules. I had recently done a whole bunch of blood tests and I took them copies to show them that I was healthy (although I had Hepatitis A in 1978) They allowed me to donate – but they are not happy to take blood if you have recently been in a malaria area. I have now donated 10 units in South Africa. Both of my sons started donating when they turned 16, they have donated 5 and 10 respectively! The SANBS are very thorough in their testing and screening of blood – I was turned away once because I was anaemic – and I was back just as soon as I was able to donate again. The reason that they perhaps won’t take your blood is because they are worried about ‘mad-cow disease’! On the blood donor comprehensive donor questionnaire http://www.sanbs.org.za/PDFDocuments/donors/become%20a%20donor/FRM-DCD-016-2E-Comprehensive-donor-questionnaire.pdf they ask if you have lived in the UK between 1980 and 1996. See also http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Creutzfeldt%E2%80%93Jakob_disease – but don’t give up recruiting! The SANBS come to the schools – St Stithians has a blood drive once a term and you can always volunteer to help out at one of these.

    • Wow!!! Well done on all the fantastic work. I really am so annoyed that it is so difficult for me to donate. Unfortunately, all the tests to prove that I am healthy have been sent as supporting documents for my visa application, but Rob and I are going to try our luck with the next blood drive through his company. The worst they can say is no and it’s not far from our house anyway!

      I hope that more people follow your example and become regular blood donors. It really does save lives!

      • If you have lab reports form Lancet or any SA clinic just ask for copies – they did not charge me 🙂

  2. Its the same here in Aus. I am not allowed to give blood because of the Mad Cow epidemic back in the 80’s/90’s. Even though I also had to go through all the medicals to get my visa approved.

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