Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Doing Good when Doing Good is Possible

Have you ever offered to do some good, and been turned away? 

Well, as someone who is (to quote the Red Cross blood donor restrictions) "a male who has had sexual contact with another male, even once, since 1977", I'm not allowed to give blood. Because, apparently, even though I've been tested at various times in my life, and have been in a committed relationship for almost 8 years, that puts me (in their eyes) into a high-risk category for HIV infection. 

This is especially frustrating since, the one or two times I was able to give blood, I was told I was "a really good pumper." I don't pass out at the sight of blood. I have good veins. I like orange juice and cookies. 

But, even though the Red Cross tests every drop of blood that they collect, and even though there are people with much riskier lifestyles who can give blood whenever they want, I would have to lie about who I am to donate blood. [For the record, I'm also not welcome on the national bone marrow registry for the same reason (because a primary component of that is run under the same regulations as those which the Red Cross uses).] 

(Yeah... For as far as we've come, there's still a distance to go in the whole Equal Rights arena...) 

This might not be a big deal to a lot of people, but if you've known someone who needed blood - or a bone marrow transplant - and you were told that you could not donate because even though you're perfectly healthy - and can take the tests to prove it - you are supposedly in a risky group, would that make sense to you? 

Say your best friend was in the hospital, and you were a perfect match for a kidney transplant. You went in to offer to donate your kidney, and were asked if you had ever eaten raw spinach between 1980 and now. When you say you have, you're turned away because there was a big e coli outbreak caused by tainted spinach in 1992. You weren't personally impacted by the outbreak, but you have eaten spinach. The doctors can tell that you're not sick, and they know that your kidney could save your best friend. But they send you away, anyway. 

That's what it's like to be told that, because I am a "practicing gay male" (I've always been amused by that phrase, I must admit), I can't give blood. I can't even be part of the bone marrow registry. I can't offer to do my part to save people's lives. 

Well, I finally found something I could do. I heard, on the radio a week or so ago, about a Cancer Prevention Study being conducted by the American Cancer Society. They were looking for volunteers to be part of a "20- to 30-year" study. Basically, they're just going to track the participants. Every 2 or 3 years, I'll get a letter asking me to tell them things like my weight, my exercise and eating habits, and whether or not I'm smoking or drinking. And whether or not I have cancer. 

So I went online and filled out the forms. Then I went in and finished signing up, today. Filled out a survey. Answered a few questions. Had my waist measured. Gave them 4 vials of blood. Promised to update my address with them whenever I move over the next couple of decades or so. 

It's not much. It's not giving blood on a monthly basis or donating bone marrow. But it's something. Do what you can with what you've got, right? 

If you'd like to learn more about the study or see if you can sign up in your area, the link to the Cancer Prevention Study-3 is here.

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