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September 28th, 2002

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06:14 am - TOW blood
I don't watch Friends (and regard it as far too mainstream to be thought of as a cult show) but I like the episode title habit.

1. Doesn't look like we're going to have a missive from Finland tonight. Fingers crossed that one arrives in the morning because the World Puzzle Federation folk are too busy running their championship to update their web site while the event is on. Understandable, really.

2. Am getting increasingly hacked off with Project Dolphin. I am racking up 40,000 keystrokes, sending a pulse to register them, having my local count reset to zero (correctly), rebooting and then having my local count restarting from 40,000. This makes my supposed 750,000+ keystrokes figure pretty bogus. I would estimate that the real total is between half and three-quarters of that. I am experiencing both the "May 18" and "May 19" bugs listed in the bugs and issues section, so it's not as if this is particularly rare. I am minded to discontinue use of Pulse until they release a new version with these problems solved - possibly to quit for good.

3. A geeky little cause for celebration is coming up soon - could be in about 20 hours, could be in about 36. Prepare to roll your eyes when I decide to share.

4. zorac links to an impressive optical illlusion, with a link to an American Scientist article. Very cool indeed!

5. brakusjs points out Live 365's campaign against Internet radio station royalties, which needs very fast action. Unfortunately, as I am not in the US, I cannot call my representative on this issue. However, perhaps you might be in the US and so you can.

6. Am happy with my letter of complaint and have sent it to the ITC through their web site. I want to send only a printed version of the letter to the duty office of the channel responsible, but this is proving harder than it should. My laser printer is quite badly broken and currently incapable of printing out letters which are neatly presented enough that you would want to read them - the ink darkness is very variable and there are semi-regular splotches resulting from an ill-fated attempt at cleaning the head. Accordingly I stuck the .doc on a disk and took it to town, eventually sourcing a library which would print it. Unfortunately the file hadn't saved to disc, had only partially saved to disc or had saved to disc in the wrong format - so no printout for me today. Will try again tomorrow, using both .doc and .rtf for safety. Stupid MS Word.

7. On the way back from town, I passed under an overhanging hedge under which a leaf was apparently floating in mid-air. The only logical explanation for this was that there was actually some spider thread hanging down from the hedge on which the leaf had been caught, but this thread was too fine to see. It was really quite impressive - I wish I had had a camera on me. Naturally, I then sought to discover whether my "spider thread" hypothesis was correct, by moving my hand between hedge and leaf. I evidently broke the thread, still too fine to see or even to feel, and the leaf floated to the ground. Now tell me you'd have been able to resist conducting the same test in order to know for sure! Tell me that Heisenberg would have been able to!

8. While in town, I gave blood for the third time. About six or twelve months ago, the UK's Blood Transfusion Service ran a dramatic campaign calling for extra donors because their stocks were so low. (Apparently only 6% of the population give blood - to me, 6% seems like a pretty good proportion.)

They've also made some administrative changes since then, most notably that the habitual time between donation sessions is no longer six months but four, that you no longer have to wait on the bed for a few minutes between finishing giving blood and going for your drink and that you can fill out much of the paperwork in advance of the attendance. I'm a little surprised by these changes coming in at once. If the blood donation system has lasted for a long time without change (which it might not have done - experts?) then these changes seem rather dramatic and surely worthy of greater discussion. At the same time they seem to have become a bit more specific on their categories of people at risk; specifically, they now explicitly state that a single incidence of oral or anal sex between men, even using condoms, is enough to disqualify a potential donor for life. (You might care to consider the techniques that are not banned.) This doesn't strike me as the most enlightened policy in terms of accurately assessing HIV transmission risks, for they are considerably more lenient to those who are heterosexually promiscuous. (Remember, "bleeder" is just one letter away from "breeder".)

I guess that fewer readers will have given blood than not and that overseas readers might wish to compare blood donation techniques in different countries, so it may be useful to descirbe the afternoon's session in more detail. The whole process takes about half an hour and happens at this particular hall in town once a month. (By coincidence, it's the same place where I attend meetings of the Middlesbrough Gamers Club on Tuesdays.) However, there are many other places around town where sessions are held, albeit less frequently. The room in which everything happens is two-thirds of perhaps a twelve-yard square; at one end, eight or ten "beds" (elevated canvas mattresses) are laid out, at the other end there are a number of desks, mostly shielded by curtains, where the administration takes place.

Upon arrival, the first task of the session is to check that you know what's going to happen to you, that you're in reasonable physical condition and that you're not at risk of donating infected blood. Then a tiny needle is fired into the tip of one of your fingers to take a very small blood sample, which is dropped into some indicator solution. (I believe this is a test for aenemia.) They describe the sensation as being "a sharp scratch", which is a slight exaggeration, and "the worst part of the whole operation", which is about right. Really, it's not painful, but it does tend to leave the jabbed finger a bit tickly and itchy for a while. (It still is twelve hours after donation, for instance.) You are fairly frequently asked for your date of birth or your address, partly to ensure you're in a composed frame of mind and partly to ensure that you are who you say you are.

You are then directed to lie on one of the beds, which has an armrest to provide elevation and support the arm from which the blood will be taken. A strap is (weakly) tightened about the arm and you get a little handle of soft plastic to squeeze and play with in order to keep the blood circulating around your arm. Some local anaesthetic is applied to the arm, around the pit of the elbow, and a little tube is fed in through your skin to your vein. It's painless, but you definitely feel it. (I look away during this part - most people probably do.) Blood flows out through your veins and out the tube at a controlled rate. You then wait and bleed down the tube for a while. Two small samples of blood are stored in vials, but the majority of it gets stored in a bag. I believe the bag holds about a pint, but that's only because of the famous commentary from Lord Tony of Hancock. "Nearly an armful", indeed. For me, the bleeding took about nine minutes today. (I wonder if your blood pressure affects the length of time it takes?)

After the bag is full, the tube is removed and you are bandaged up. Previously you would have been made to continue to lie there for another five minutes, but this rest is now optional. (Indeed, I stayed there for a while and was politely shooed away after about three or four minutes.) You are then offered a drink - tea, coffee or watery squash - and a selection of biscuits. You can sit round and take your time with them or disappear straight away as you prefer. That's it. To be fair, you do feel at about 95% for another 48 hours afterwards and sometimes I've felt momentary pulsing, twitching sensations in my arm the day after the donation. (Expect me not to be typing so much tomorrow.) If I become ill in the next week or two, I need to notify the authorities that it might not have been the healthiest blood in the world after all, but there's no other rigmarole involved.

If you've ever considered the idea but felt it to be somehow scary or something that you're happy to let other people do, please think again about it. I suspect there are very few countries in the world who are not actively seeking blood donations. It isn't painful, the people who collect the blood are very nice (at least in Middlesbrough!) and it's objectively selfless and heroic to some extent. I'm not sure all the "Do something amazing, save a life" rhetoric that we get in this country is quite appropriate, but I think that a blood donation should be worth a self-administered reward of 1 Smug on the metric scale. (That's about 1.7 Happies.) I don't think that giving blood would prove to be a great place to find a mate, but some of the administrators in Middlesbrough are actually rather fit...

In case you're wondering, I am blood group A (rhesus positive) which is apparently as common and boring as hell. There is probably some established mapping between blood groups and Japanese beat-'em-up special moves, but I'm afraid I can't do anything more impressive than a Spinning Bird Kick (er, sort of - ask chrisvenus) and even that required the assistance of a considerable technical cast.

The original plan was also to talk about religion tonight, but it has got too late for that. "TOW blood and religion" has become just "TOW blood" - religion will follow some other day. Night night.
Current Mood: Oink oink

(7 comments | Leave a comment)


[User Picture]
Date:September 28th, 2002 12:45 am (UTC)

The blood donation rules for homosexuals

(ref to: 'for they are considerably more lenient to those who are heterosexually promiscuous.')

Is just a reasonable statement of risk: HIV is still far more prevalent in homosexual/bi circles than heterosexual ones, so even a promiscuous heterosexual male is less likely to cause problems for donations. Part of this is different patterns of behaviour in the group as a whole (homosexual men being, statistically, more promiscuous than hetero), and part is the group being a lot smaller (hence a reduced transmissions pool).

It's not a matter of being 'lenient' to anyone (I can't imagine anyone getting upset and being told they can't have a needle stuck in their arm, and free biscuits aren't a big enough bribe to complain about lacking :)), just simple mathematics applied to a cash-strapped service organisation with a good knowledge of epidemiology and statistics.

If you're looking for silly blood donation rules, I can't give blood in the States. (I'm a haemophobe, however, so it was unlikely I'd be volunteering until the day I decide to 'cure' myself.) This is because having lived in the UK, I might have CJD, apparently. Don't ask me, I have no idea why that rule is in place.
[User Picture]
Date:September 28th, 2002 06:18 am (UTC)

Re: The blood donation rules for homosexuals

I'm prepared to believe it, but would still prefer the Blood Transfusion Service to go into slightly greater detail about this on their site by way of explanation. (Perhaps I'll try to find the stats myself, to confirm that this gut feeling is based on fact and not just prejudice.) I'm also not absolutely convinced that the BTS is particularly cash-strapped; admittedly the public sector is almost never cash-rich, but certainly we haven't heard any appeals for money from them.

Yes, the CJD suspicion is ridiculous. I wonder if the French ban those who have lived in Britain from giving blood in France simply because we're so much more likely to have eaten British beef?
[User Picture]
Date:October 6th, 2002 11:47 pm (UTC)

The blood donation rules for Englishmen

Here in New Zealand, the rules are much the same. You can't give blood if you lived in Britain for six months or more between 1980 and 1996. As I didn't leave Britain until 1990, I'm pretty much screwed. Until the rule came in, I was a regular donor in New Zealand and am frankly amazed by it.
AFAIK, there have been NO recorded cases of CJD as a result of infected blood transfusions. It seems to me that the ban is motivated by politics rather than health.
I was also intrigued when I called the NZ equivalent of the BTS just before the ban came into force. Yes, it was for real. But would you like to come in one last time before the cutoff date? I felt that if they didn't want my blood after a date (or felt that it presented an unacceptable risk) then I didn't see why it should be OK a week earlier, so I declined. I call them politely every three months to check whether the ban is still in force. As of my last check, yes.
I understand it came in first in Canada, and other countries have followed suit.
While I was back in England last month, I gave blood at the main centre in Liverpool. They were very pleased to see me. I guess if the 1980-1996 ban were in force in Liverpool, working for the BTS would be a very cushy number.
The NZ service is very short of blood at the moment: the NZ tradition of the OE (overseas experience) is long established and means that very many New Zealand youths spend up to a year travelling the world to see what it's like. The major destination is London, so a large number of OEers are now banned from giving blood. The problem is that there is a match between people who tend to do OE and those who tend to give blood (broadly middle class types who want to do something worthy that doesn't actually cost money)
I think they noted that the number of people affected as a percentage of the whole population was pretty low, but didn't reckon on the two communities not being independent.
New topic...speed of donation. It doesn't seem to be blood pressure but the weather. On a hot afternoon, everybody seems to fill up the bag much quicker than on a winter's day. And the capacity of the bag was marked as 470ml (or was it 480ml?)

[User Picture]
Date:October 7th, 2002 01:20 pm (UTC)

Re: The blood donation rules for Englishmen

Good for you! If the rest of the world doesn't want good British blood, then it's pleasing that it's still accepted in Britain.

I like the icon, too :-)
Date:September 30th, 2002 06:03 am (UTC)


After a similar introduction to the simplicity and near-non-invasiveness of the procedure from worrals (http://www.deadjournal.com/~worrals/), I've now given blood a dozen times. Some countries pay for donations; by contrast, the National Blood Service in Britain incentivises donors with A) warm fruit drink and a biscuit B) plastic cards and buttons. In my wallet is a shiny gold card to mark 10-24 donations, which leaves at least three years before the next step, but in consolation records my blood group. (As it's vulgar O+ this wouldn't be particularly important in an emergency.)

The procedural changes you noted follow a recent review which included surveys of patient opinion. I filled out a questionnaire, although who knows what account was taken; could be that a time-and-motion study of paperwork/bloodletting had more weight than our cries of 'Let us at the biscuits!'

[User Picture]
Date:September 30th, 2002 06:44 am (UTC)

Blood, blood, glorious blood

I understood that 10-24 was a bronze card: 1-4 red, 5-9 blue, 10-24 bronze, 25-49 silver, 50-74 gold, with imperial purple and somewhat unfathomable green up in the echelons for the top bleeders. Oh, and yellow for people who give by apo... apos... the other method because they have special blood.

(Wouldn't football be much more colourful and so much more entertaining if referees had the authority to hand out bronze, silver and gold cards as well as yellow and red ones?)

Of course, the system will surely change again in the next few years (it's not as if they use the cards for any reason in practice, is it? - the magnetic strip is surely bogus, with the donor number being contained in the optical bar code) and so you're not likely to get to the next colour of card before they have replaced cards with different-coloured dilithium crystals or whatever goes on to replace 'em.

My blood trivia may be getting more confused than usual, but I thought that group O was the type which everybody could use to some extent, which makes those with group O the metaphorical super-subs of the piece. (If that's the case then I also wonder why we aren't tryng to genetically engineer humans to all run on group O blood.)

Oh, and you know that you should take a decent chunk of the credit for my decision to start giving blood - the ox.bleeders were a powerful and inspirational force, with you prominent in my mind among them. Not all the credit, mind; assists should also go to George and DanversDavis for their enlightened discount scheme for donors and also to other local folks around here who have convinced me that it's something that real people - by contrast to you complex Oxford folk - do as well.

I still think you should start your own LiveJournal.
[User Picture]
Date:October 8th, 2002 07:54 pm (UTC)
The British giving-blood process sounds exactly like the American process. I think the initial finger-pricking test is to check your iron level. That's usually the reason I can't donate -- not enough iron. I've given blood a couple times. I inherited my father's fast bleeding and my mother's squeamishness, so I have a tendency to get a little woozy. The first time I ever donated, I passed out in the lobby as we were leaving. Very disturbing experience -- one minute I standing up, and then next thing I knew, I was wondering what on earth I was doing on the floor. I've almost fainted on a couple other occasions as well, so I'm not always keen to give blood. Oh yeah, and the people are always very nice, and the cookies are tasty.

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