I could save a life. In fact, I could save several. It wouldn’t cost me anything. It wouldn’t hurt. It wouldn’t put me, or anyone else, in danger. It wouldn’t take long. It wouldn’t involve breaking any law. But it would require me to lie.
I don’t smoke. I drink in moderation and I don’t take any drugs – prescription or otherwise. I am vegetarian and the picture of rude good health. And, like nearly half the world, I have bog-standard O+ blood. I’d love to share it – but I’m not allowed. At least, not in Ireland, where I currently reside. I lived in England in the mid-1990s and and the Irish Transfusion Board has decided that because of the risk of BSE, it cannot accept my blood.
Even though I tried to persuade the Powers That Be that I just am a mad cow – I don’t have mad cow disease, they won’t budge.
I console myself by reminding myself that I donated my spare breastmilk to the milkbank in Fermanagh for as long as I could, helping to save a number of lives over those months.
Like less than 1% of the world’s population, three of my four brothers have super-special AB- blood. They get ushered to the top of the queue whenever they go to donate. Last year, one of them – who lives in London – shared the story of a donation he had made a few months previously.
He noticed that, instead of one bag to collect his donation, he was attached to four little bags.
‘Out of curiosity,’ he asked the nurse. ‘Why the four bags?’
‘There’s a courier on the way,’ she explained. ‘To collect this once you’re finished and take it to Great Ormond Street. They’ve babies waiting for it.’
‘Take some from this arm, too,’ Barry offered, holding his other one up.
The nurse smiled and shook her head.
‘I can’t take any more than 470mls from you in one go,’ she said.
‘I’ve loads,’ Barry tried again. ‘Way more than I need.’
‘I really can’t,’ the nurse told him. ‘Just make sure you come back to us in 16 weeks.’
While I wouldn’t be quite as useful as my brothers, I am sure the Irish Blood Transfusion Board could find something to do with my blood. But they won’t get the chance. The part of me that is a ‘good girl’ – the part of me that hates to break rules refuses to lie. Even though I find it frustrating every time I hear an ad on the radio appealing for blood. Like at this time of the year, when people are too busy and, statistically, more blood is usually needed.
This holiday season, I’d like to urge all of you who can, to make a blood donation. And, if 2011 brings me the one thing I’d really love – a new baby – I promise to donate all my spare milk again. Deal?