In 1982 I went on my second “Big OE“. Seeing as how New Zealand is pretty much “out there” in the world, far from other centres of humanity, it’s traditional for young kiwis to make a lie of our national emblem1, to stretch their wings and fly off to almost anywhere else. In 1976 I lived in Düsseldorf, Germany for the year, but in 1982 I travelled widely throughout Europe and Scandinavia for 5 months or so before cycling from London to Edinburgh where I then spent another 7 months.
In some ways Edinburgh was a lot like Wellington: hilly, wet, windy. In other respects though it was vastly different: The castle, the Tattoo, thousands of years of human history, the confusing street names. I was accustomed to remembering only partial addresses: if I needed to visit Gough Street I’d recall only “Gough”. That works just fine in New Zealand, but in Edinburgh streets were clustered in groups bearing the same name: Gough Street, Gough Terrace, Gough Close, Gough Drive, and so on. I soon learned my lesson!
After that big adventure I returned to New Zealand where I have lived and worked since.
Just before Christmas I walked past a notice declaring that a mobile blood donation clinic was accepting donations. I found several excuses for being unable to donate blood that day: I was too busy, short of time, and so on, but the truth was I was just a bit scared, even though I felt it was perhaps a responsibility to donate blood. After all, one day it might be me needing a transfusion and I’d be grateful to those who do donate. Knowing my partner Deb donates blood I asked her to one day accompany me, and today was the day.
We turned up at the donation centre near the hospital and filled in a few forms. As I had never donated before I had to complete a health checklist, declaring that I don’t have Aids or hepatitis and so on. One question asked if I’d lived in the UK between 1980 and 1996 for a period of 6 months or more, and of course I answered Yes.
My interview with the nurse went well. She drew a drop of blood for testing, and discussed a recent trivial cosmetic surgery incision. She was about to send me through to make my donation when I asked whether the question about living in the UK was important. Startled, she realised she’d overlooked that item on the form, while we’d been discussing the item immediately above it.
Well, it seems I’m permanently disqualified from donating blood on account of that visit. There’s a danger I may have been exposed to Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease while I was in Edinburgh. This restriction has caused the NZ Blood Service to lose about 10% of its donors.
On the one hand I’m relieved, but on the other I know the Blood Service needs all the suitable donations it can get.
1 The kiwi is a flightless bird.