I donated my first 400 ml of blood when I was 18. Not that it was my own idea, a classmate of mine was determined and in the end we were five, six girls who went. Everything went fine and I kept it up for years to come. Since I moved to different countries so often, I lost count of my donations, but I must have given blood at least 50 times, which amounts to roughly 20 liters.
Even though I’ve been living in Japan for years now, I never tried to find out whether I was allowed to donate blood here as well. I asked my doctor the other day to help me with that, and, to cut a long story short: No, I am not eligible.
Besides the usual criteria for disqualification like having had blood transfusions or organ transplants, having travelled abroad recently, or receiving dental surgery or a tattoo within a certain time span, there’s also one pertaining to BSE. Also known as Mad Cow Disease, it had a large-scale outbreak in the 1990s in Great Britain, and eating meat from an infected animal may cause Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease in humans even decades after.
Since this disease can be transmitted via (donated) blood as well, in many European countries you will be excluded from blood donations if you lived in Great Britian between 1980 and the early 2000s. Asian countries go a bit further: In Hongkong they effectively exclude everybody who grew up in Europe in the 1980/1990s. In Japan, they ask you whether you lived in certain countries besides Great Britain, among them Spain, Germany and the Netherlands.
Well, that one does it for me… It seems that my blood donor career is over – unless of course I’ll move again to another (European) country, which I have no intentions of doing. Oh well, it was fun as long as it lasted.
PS: I hope you’re inspired to go out and give this blood donating a try. Just one thing: Please don’t lie on your pre-donation questionnaire, no matter how eager you are to “help”. You have no control over who’s getting your blood. It may be a burly truck driver after an accident or a 2-week old baby. Don’t play with their lives!