Prince Edward Island

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Back in the Saddle Again

My journey as a blood donor began in college. It was a highly competitive scene in residence at Mt. Allison in the 1960's and each "house" competed against the others to claim the highest participation rate. As freshmen we leaned quickly that it was "all hands on deck" once the blood donor vans rolled into town to set up a donor clinic on campus. I recall participation rates of 96%-98% if memory serves me well. I learned that it was an easy process, staff were friendly, and that the raisin bread was memorable.


Fast forward a few years and I had become a regular donor on Prince Edward Island until it all came to a halt. It was at a time that the entire blood system as it became known was in turmoil. Testing had become the solution to the issues that had emerged and all those tests had a high levels of sensitivity which could trigger "reactive" returns even though they were false positive. In this case it was Hep C, which I didn't have, but it took additional testing to prove that fact. Meanwhile there was no re-entry method for anyone who had ever tested reactive any time in the past. It meant the end of my opportunity to be a donor.


But life continued and I came to realize the importance of our Canadian blood system which doesn't put a price on donor blood but relies on healthy volunteer donors (and the odd healthy college kid dragooned to the clinic by his or her residence mates.) It was the personal realization that my wife would be undergoing cancer surgery and later that I would also face cancer surgery, that reinforced the need for blood donors. Luckily both of us are over 10 years of being cancer free and are enjoying life.


Yet still that Christmas appeal looking for new donors had a way of bothering me. I kept asking why not take me? And thus I began a writing campaign to the various medical directors of the organization responsible for our Canadian system. First it was the Red Cross and then the Canadian Blood Services when they took over; every few years I would write again asking about a reinstatement policy. Years turned into decades and then after 20 years of waiting the answer came. Yes, we have a program and you can apply to be reinstated.


So this Christmas when the appeal came for more donors it was an easy response. Simply log onto the website, pick a time and off we go with donor card in hand. If you know anyone that had a similar end to their donor eligibility (there are thousands out there) please spread the word that there is a way back. From someone who is glad to be back in the saddle again, Happy Trails.