Saturday, January 05, 2013
Shortly after I was diagnosed with MS, I tried to give blood. I think it was at a work blood drive. When I skimmed the eligibility requirements they asked me to review and sign before sticking me, I was shocked to see Multiple Sclerosis on the list of diseases that were exclusionary factors for donating blood. HIV/AIDS, Hepatitis, and Multiple Sclerosis. There were probably several others on the list, but I stopped reading after seeing MS. HIV/AIDS and Hepatitis I understood, but MS???? I was really pissed off. What idiotic bureaucrat thought that MS was a contagious disease that could be transmitted by a blood transfusion???? After the anger, came the shame. I felt like my blood wasn't good enough for the Red Cross refrigerators. I was diseased and unworthy.
I think that may have been one of the first and only times I was really ashamed of my MS. I started this blog and went public with my diagnosis right away. I felt a strong need to share honestly, hopefully, and, whenever possible, humorously, about what was going on with me. but I also felt a responsibility to do what I could to remove the stigma and misconceptions associated with this disease. I didn't feel like I had anything to be ashamed of until that Red Cross donor information sheet told me that my blood was tainted.
A couple years later, I read a post somewhere about how the American Red Cross used to prohibit people from donating blood if they had MS, but that they had changed their eligibility guidelines in 2007. According to the MS Society, they did this rather quietly but I don't think they did a great job disseminating those eligibility changes to their field offices. Doing a quick Google search for this post, I found several offices that still list MS as an exclusionary factor in the "serious illness" section, including Northern Ohio, Arizona, and the Red Cross guidelines distributed for a Princeton University blood drive.
The eligibility requirements now posted on the national American Red Cross site no longer even mention MS, which means that it is, rightfully so, no longer an exclusionary factor. When I gave blood today, they asked me many, many questions including whether I had been incarcerated (not yet), had sex with a man who had sex with a man (definitely not in the 12 month period they asked about), and had I recently had any piercings or tattoos (never with unsterilized needles and not in the last 12 months) but no one asked me about my MS.
I am worthy and I couldn't be happier. Although I opted for the gluten-free fruit snacks, I proudly wore my sticker all day today.
Posted by Julie M. Baker at 9:28 PM