I used to donate blood when I lived in Canada, but am no longer allowed to, even if I paid them. Because I lived for more than three months in France in the early 1980s, I’m no longer eligible to give blood in Canada.
Eet ees ze vache folle, you see. Mad Cow disease. The Canadians fear I’m a carrier because France at the time I lived there was importing possibly infected beef from Thatcher’s Britain, a mad cow dominion if there ever was one.
In fact, if you applied Canada’s incredibly strict rules for donating blood to Germany, the entire system in this country would collapse. That’s because Canada now says that if you’ve lived for more than five years at a time in Europe at any time since 1980, they won’t allow you to donate, either.
Canada is paranoid, I suppose, because there really is no way of knowing whether my blood is tainted or not, or, if I truly am a carrier, when it will flare up. There’s this disease called Kuru that still pops up in former cannibals from New Guinea about once or twice a year, even though it was more than 50 years ago the last time they tucked into some filet humain. Kuru is what they call a prion disease, and is like mad cow in that the cattle got it after being fed the ground-up – and infected – bits of their forefathers . That was a bad idea, because it spread to humans and has killed more than 170 people so far.
But the Germans see beyond all that, and have no qualms about sticking needles into my left Canuck arm to drain a bit of fluid.
Every eight weeks I go to a clinic about 20 minutes away, down a litre of fruit juice while filling out a form that says I am still in a monogamous relationship with a human being I trust, have not suddenly decided to swap needles with strangers, and am not at the moment on day four of a three-day bender.
Then I go have some more juice while waiting my turn at the draining beds. It takes only a few minutes of semi-horizontal relaxation with the friendly nurses, after which they give me a meal voucher I trade for two long, crunchy European wieners and a mound of potato salad washed down with another litre of fruit juice. Gotta make sure I don’t collapse on the way home, I guess.
For all that they give me €23 to cover my bus fare, time and trouble. But they also give me a bit more. Even though your contribution is anonymous, indirect and just a drop in the bucket, it’s a good feeling to know it’s going to help someone get through their stay in hospital.
And you might call it the karmic installment savings plan, but some day I might be hauled in on a stretcher and need to make a withdrawal myself.