Do something amazing. Give blood. It’s a motif we’re all familiar with, and I’m constantly being inundated with appeals and adverts from the NHS operating blood drives in my area. So when my parents informed me they were going to give blood in the run-up to Christmas, I decided to go as well. My blood might not be particularly rare, but every little helps, and it’s the season for giving and all that.
Obviously I wanted to confirm that it wouldn’t be a wasted journey – while MD isn’t contagious through blood, you never know with the NHS what kind of problems might arise. I went through their online checks in which they ask you a million questions about your sexual history and general health (never fear readers, both of those are fine for me). I got to the question of whether I’d had any tests or hospital visits, which of course I have, and that’s where the questions stopped and I was advised to call them to further discuss my medical history. I duly did so only to find that their medical database was down and the man on the other end of the phone couldn’t advise me. Irregardless, I figured that a couple of blood tests and MRIs probably weren’t going to affect my suitability to give blood and headed out through the somewhat treacherous snowy conditions to my local town hall for the blood drive.
The man on the registration desk took one look at me in my wheelchair and immediately summoned the Staff Nurse over. She asked me what my disability was. My answer earned a “Hmm, that’s almost certainly a no.” I explained to her that my condition didn’t affect my heart or circulatory system at all, and my blood was perfectly healthy, but she still refused. The reason, I later found out, was not anything to do with the nature of my condition. No, in fact I wasn’t allowed to give blood because, as a wheelchair user, I am a “fire hazard”.
Struggling to see the logic behind this? Me too. From what I can make out, because I’m unable to transfer from my wheelchair onto the (admittedly rather high) official NHS blood-giving bed without assistance, in the event of a fire I would be unable to evacuate myself. Never mind that both my parents and my brother were there with me, all of whom regularly assist me with transferring from one thing to another – in the event of a fire they would of course flee the building and leave me on the bed to burn, as would, doubtless, the fifteen or so medical professionals who were hanging around the town hall. Even if I brought with me my carer who I personally employ and who would be with me for the sole purpose of transferring me on and off the bed, I would still pose too much of a fire hazard for them to allow me to give blood. Nor am I allowed to remain in my wheelchair to do so, despite its capacity to tilt back to the same angle as the beds they use.
There was nothing on the site which had indicated to me that mobility difficulties would be a prohibiting factor in this, and fair to say the whole incident was pretty upsetting, not to mention offensive. I’m an active member of the community, and I can’t contribute to a lot of activities in the same way that my able-bodied peers can, but I want to be involved as much as I can. I’d thought that giving blood would be something anyone can do, regardless of how well their legs work, but apparently this isn’t the case. I don’t even need to point out that the NHS have absolutely no problem taking blood from me when they want to run yet another test on it…
Honestly, it’s no wonder people think disabled people are a drain on society when even those of us who go out of their way to contribute are prevented from doing so by ridiculous and discriminatory blanket policies.