I am not a fan of beef.
I’m not a vegetarian, by any means. Bring on the pork products; I’ll eat my weight in them. I also like chicken a great deal, and most fish is a-ok by me. But I can do without beef. Hamburgers once and a while are fine (especially with bacon, which is the world’s perfect meat); pot roast is not the worst thing in the world, but there is usually celery involved in the cooking of it, and there is nothing worse than the flavor of celery (and those STRINGS IN CELERY WHAT IN THE NAME OF ALL THAT’S HOLY ARE THOSE); and I can handle steak, but only if it’s covered in either ketchup or barbecue sauce and cooked very, very well-done, because if there’s a hint of blood on my plate, I am out of there. I don’t want anything that’s still bleeding on my plate. I am not a cannibal. This is not the stone ages, and we have fire now, thank you very much.
All of this to say: if I were to never eat beef again, I wouldn’t miss it in the slightest.
So imagine my surprise when I found out that I am probably dying of Mad Cow Disease.
I used to give blood regularly, and then fell out of practice a while ago. Nothing really spurred the change, I just got busy, I suppose. I also have weird veins that are very deep in my arms, and it usually takes someone with the patience of Job to find one. Add to that the fact that I am as pale as a cave-dwelling albino, and I bruise with even the slightest bump (so when I’ve given blood, I usually have a spectacular bruise that lasts anywhere from 2-4 weeks and look like a junkie – a pale, pale junkie), and you have the recipe for avoiding the voluntary donation of blood.
There was a blood donation drive in my work complex, and we were given a couple of hours off if we chose to participate. Listen, time off is one of my favorite times. I’d do just about anything for it. Including let someone bruise me up like a bad apple and steal my life juices. So I went to the donation drive with the promise of time off dancing happily in my mind.
Have you filled out one of these Red Cross donation questionnaires lately? They are all-inclusive, let me tell you. Here are some (just a few – there are a LOT of them!) of the requirements you must meet:
· You must be able to breathe through your mouth. (I was. I am. WHO ISN’T, though, is my question? And bless them for thinking of others when they have a major, major issue of their own such as, oh, I don’t know, NOT BEING ABLE TO BREATHE THROUGH THEIR MOUTH)
· You can’t be a man who has sex with other men; you can’t be a prostitute; you can’t have sex with gay men or prostitutes; and you can’t be a junkie (I’m not any of these things, nor have I done any of these things, and yes, I understand the need to ask them, but whew! Nosy! I really, really wanted to ask the man at the desk questions like “Is it prostitution if they paid me in cigarettes or, say, Jolly Ranchers? Say, do YOU have any Jolly Ranchers?” and “My husband says it’s not gay if he and his lover kept their eyes closed the whole time, so I’m good, right?”)
· All other STD’s, just as a FYI, but AIDS? Are ok. Interesting!
· You can’t have had a tattoo in the past 12 months. (Good thing I waited on that “I Heart You Mom” tattoo I had my eye on! Also, there would have been a tiger. And a ship.)
So I’m filling out the form, and I get to this one:
From January 1, 1980, through December 31, 1996, you spent (visited or lived) a cumulative time of 3 months or more, in the United Kingdom (UK), or from January 1, 1980, to present, you had a blood transfusion in any country(ies) in the (UK).
I spent a semester abroad. We lived in London. It was from January to May 1995. (As an aside – worst semester of my life. I lived in a flat with two friends and two strangers who ended up being mean frat-boy bullies who made my life a living hell, and ended up coming down with mono that lasted for a full six weeks – which I didn’t even get from kissing, FALSE ADVERTISING, MONO! - so I didn’t even have the energy to get out of bed. I couldn’t wait to come home.) I hadn’t given blood since being back, so hadn’t run into this question before. I brought my paper up to the man behind the desk, a stony-faced individual, and we had the following conversation.
Me: Hi. I’m wondering about this question?
Me: I spent 5 months in London in 1995.
Him: (Horrified look, as if I am a leper) You can’t give blood. (Tries to take my paperwork, clipboard, and pen back from me, forcibly.)
Me: What? Why?
Him: You could have Creutzfeld-Jacob Disease.
Me: I’m sorry. That’s – I – Mad Cow Disease? What?
Him: If you lived in the UK in the time specified for more than 3 months, you could have been exposed. We can’t have you giving blood.
Me: How would I get exposed to something like that? I wasn’t on a farm work-study trip. We were studying Shakespeare.
Him: From eating beef.
Me: Oh, ok, then. Then I’m good. I don’t really eat beef. I know I didn’t
while I was there.
Him: Doesn’t matter.
Me: I’m sorry? Why?
Him: You could have been exposed from eating food cooked close to beef. You can’t donate blood.
Him: Probably not. Check the Red Cross website. If the ban’s lifted, feel free to come back. (Then he CHUCKLED. Me DYING of Mad Cow Disease TICKLED him.)
Then I left, dejected. Not only did I not get my two hours off (you had to show one of those “I donated” stickers, which, even though I was very nice about begging for, the man wouldn’t give me) I was now dying of Mad Cow Disease. The symptoms of which are, and I quote from the Internet, which is never wrong, “muscle spasms, lack of muscle control, memory problems, unsteady gait, decreased milk production, and eventually the animal dies.” I may have mixed together the human and cow symptoms, but I did it for EMPHASIS. So you know how TOTALLY SERIOUS MY MAD COW DISEASE IS. I could STOP PRODUCING MILK, everyone. How will I feed my calves? And eventually “the animal” dies? Way to have empathy for me, INTERNET. Oh, you were talking about the cow there? Ok, then. Still.
Also, I often forget things, and I have an unsteady gait at times. So odds are good I’m just about a goner.
The moral of this story is, you should give blood, because you find out very interesting things about yourself. It’s like a personality quiz! And I failed it!