Pint of No Return

Happy new year! I’ve already failed to keep my New Year’s resolution…while it was still 2015

Charity runner
Ain’t gonna happen

Resolutions are inherently doomed to fail. Making a foolishly grand promise when you’re skint, knackered and retoxed puts a hex on your plans from day one.

It’s a bad time for even the best ideas. Because the best time to decide to run 10K for charity is when you can barely stumble to the fridge…

Which is why I thought I was being clever earlier this week (or last year, depending on your point of view) when I thought I had cracked the annual new year’s resolution conundrum early.

More fool me.

Casting my mind around for something other than ‘better shape up’ (thanks for the Fitbit, Santa), I had remembered something I had done dozens of times before. Something quick, easy, that can be done multiple times in a year, bathes you in an altruistic glow and may just save someone’s life.

Yes, it’s giving blood, something I didn’t do once in our three years in Qatar. It wasn’t for lack of will, but my lack of a Qatar ID card. (For any Qatar-based readers who have an ID card and do feel inspired, just head to HMC’s Blood Donation unit. It’s on Al Rayyan Rd, on the edge of the main Hamad General campus.)

Blood bank
Abu Dhabi’s Blood Bank

The blood bank here in Abu Dhabi is clearly and centrally located just behind Khalidiya Mall. I called ahead (Freephone 800 8722) to see if you needed to make an appointment (you don’t) and stopped by on my way home earlier this week.

One pint* of A+ coming up. (At least something about me is positive, as Mrs LC likes to point out). But my enthusiasm was to be short-lived.

Blood Not-So-Simple

Once we’d established I was from the UK, the man on the front desk shook his head and handed me a medical questionnaire. It had 33 questions, but he only wanted to draw my attention to numbers 22 and 23:

  • From 1980 to 1996 had I spent up to three months or more in the UK?
  • From 1980 to the present did you spend more than five years in Europe?

To which my answer were yes, yes, and yes again. He suggested I could still see the doctor, as I was already here, but it wasn’t going to make a difference.

Blood donor leaflet
Spoiler alert: no you can’t

Of course I wanted to see her; I wanted to know what was up. The answer was something I hadn’t thought about in years: vCJD, or “mad cow disease”. The early 90s in the UK were a surreal period of tabloid hysteria (is there any other kind?) with an added dash of discovering the true cost of cheap burgers. And its legacy had done for my resolution.

(I had no idea it was even still a thing, but a quick Google reveals that Canada only restarted imports of British beef six weeks ago, after a 19-year ban. Who’d have thought it, eh?)

Missed opportunity

Hyper rare though the risk might be, I might be a dormant carrier and inadvertently pass on the disease in my blood.

But wait! I wanted to shout. I’ve been to the gym twice this week. I had cous cous for lunch. It doesn’t get any better than this!

The Emirati doctor was as embarrassed as I was frustrated. Having studied in Europe for seven years herself, she can’t donate blood in her own country.

By way of consolation, and as I was already there, she offered to check my haemoglobin levels (peachy) and my blood pressure (surprisingly chilled). But it was scant consolation. I thanked them and left, sadly never to return.

In a flash of inspiration, when I got home I called the UK’s Blood Transfusion Service. Is the UAE on any kind of blood veto list, I wondered? As of right now, I was told, it isn’t. So perhaps I’ll just have to schedule a session when I’m next back in the UK. There’s free stickers and biscuits…

So, with plan A gone for a burton, I’m open to your suggestions, however sensible or sarcastic. What’s plan B, readers?

Or do I just use a bit of reverse psychology?

Yup, that’ll do (c)


*A typical donation is about 450ml, or roughly one American pint. We Brits are made of sterner stuff, however. Order a pint in the UK and you’ll get 568 delicious millilitres. Cheers!


5 thoughts on “Pint of No Return

  1. Ian January 1, 2016 / 9:14 am

    Living in Qatar for the past year I haven’t yet tried to give blood, however, whilst living in Denmark I tried and got the same answer as you about mad cow’s disease. At least you gave it a go, it’s the thought that counts ;o)

    • littlecity January 1, 2016 / 12:39 pm

      Happy new year, Ian.

      I’m amazed to hear it’s still an issue; via Twitter I’m told it’s the same in NZ as well. Still, go on you for trying in Denmark – I’d be really interested to hear what the situation is in Qatar… If you’ve got a QID, maybe you could find out 🙂

  2. agirlandherpassport January 2, 2016 / 12:10 pm

    I can’t donate in Qatar because of some medication I take. Wouldn’t be an issue in the US. Doesn’t make sense.

    • littlecity January 4, 2016 / 2:31 am

      There definitely needs to be more of a global standard; the problem with rejection in one country is the effect it has on you even trying in another, where, like your example, there might not actually be a problem at all.

      • agirlandherpassport January 4, 2016 / 2:42 am

        I agree! Donating blood should not be such a hassle.

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