There was some bloody good news this week that got the excitement racing through my veins.
It may not excite everybody as much, but for me, it was big bloody good news - people who were restricted from giving blood or plasma if they’d lived in the United Kingdom will soon be able to donate.
Yes, that’s right, the possibility of being able to give blood here again is great news for me, and the NZ Blood Service, which is always needing more blood, and, of course, those who need this vital service to stay alive.
In August, the Blood Service made a submission to medical regulator Medsafe, recommending the restriction be removed. Medsafe has now approved the application for removal.
Since the early 2000s, New Zealand has excluded potential donors who lived in the UK, Ireland or France for six months or more between 1980 and 1996, due to the potential for these people to be infected with Variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD) that was rampant in UK cattle at that time.
I was one of those people hit by the ban, which was initially for 10 years, but then extended indefinitely as the experts were not sure just how long vCJD could be in a person’s system before becoming active. There were no blood tests available for testing of donated blood.
I was born in the UK and was a regular blood donor there, and in NZ for the years here before the ban was introduced.
I can, and do, give blood whenever I go back to the UK (when I first gave blood they would give you a can of stout afterwards to help replace the blood you had just donated, which seemed like a very fair exchange at the time) and I’m delighted that I will finally be able to give blood here again.
And it’s important that I, and anybody else who does so, can give blood as NZ has one of the lowest rates of blood donors. It’s especially important if you have a rare blood type.
At the moment fewer than 4 per cent of the eligible population donate blood in New Zealand. On its website, the Blood Service said the approval was “bloody good news” and I couldn’t agree more.
To put the NZ donation rate into comparison, Saudi Arabia tops the list of countries donating the most with 58 per cent of eligible people doing so, followed by India with 52 per cent. Further down the list the US is on 23 per cent; Australia 20 per cent; the UK 18 per cent and Japan 11 per cent, with most OECD countries well ahead of NZ.
So with blood donation such a lifesaving service, our low donation rate means the Blood Service is constantly trying to get more donors signed up.
I’m hoping this good news will increase those donor rates dramatically and I’ll be logging on to register to donate as soon as I can (though it’s tea and biscuits here rather than the stout, hint, hint) to do my bit and help save lives.
However, it won’t be soon, as the approval from Medsafe is just the first step. There’s plenty more work to be done before the service can make changes, therefore there’s no set start date at this stage.
But it is indeed bloody good news and anybody who is keen to give blood again, or people wanting to donate for the first time, can go to https://www.nzblood.co.nz/. I’m sure the Blood Service, and the people with lives saved by that blood, will be grateful.
■ If you want to give blood the NZ Blood Service is also visiting the Far North next week.
It will be in the Turner Centre, Kerikeri, on Monday from 1pm to 6pm, then on Tuesday from noon to 6pm.
It will be at Te Ahu, in Kaitāia, on Wednesday from noon to 6pm and again on Thursday from 8.30am to 2.30pm, then in Kaikohe at the War Memorial hall from 8.30am to 12.30pm.