Throwing away blood.
Today I became a blood donor for the first time. I’ve had many units drained off of me in order to manage a genetic disorder I have but because of a Canadian Blood Services policy they’ve all been incinerated. What a waste! Not only is my blood not being used, fuel is being burnt to destroy it.
A little background first: I suffer from hereditary haemochromatosis; a genetic disorder that effects iron metabolism. I absorb the iron in my food much more efficiently than most people and with a normal diet my iron levels quickly reach a point where it harms my health. My iron levels are managed by avoiding iron fortified foods and through regular phlebotomies(blood lettings).
The policy I’m referring to is one that prohibits reusing medical waste for other purposes. It seems like a good, no-brainer policy but here’s where I fit in: I have to give blood to remain healthy; a lot of blood. When things were bad I was giving a unit every week. There is nothing wrong with my blood, the only difference is that my blood has an above normal ferritin level and red cell count; ideal for anaemic patients, actually. Because my blood is removed in order to manage a medical problem, it is considered medical waste and therefore not accepted.
What really grinds my gears is that they’re always asking for more donors when, at one point, I could supply as much blood as eight normal donors. Now that my iron levels are under control I can simply give blood as a normal donor; before today my blood all went to the incinerator.
Of course Blood Services needs to be careful about preventing the spread of disease. They ask donors a lot of personal questions to determine their relative risk of spreading disease; I have no problem with that. My problem is that perfectly good blood is being refused based on WHY it’s being removed, rather than its quality. Most blood services in the world recognize what a great source of blood people with haemochromatosis represents; with no risk to public health if other blood donation criteria are followed. Here, sadly, blind obedience to a rule that’s too general is sending a lot of perfectly good blood, that needs to be drawn anyway, is being wasted; you can’t even take it home to fertilize the garden.