Yesterday was World Blood Donor Day. While I'm not a huge fan of needles, I've given my fair share of blood in the past, and it makes me feel good to know I can help out. That, and I will do pretty much anything for a free cookie, even if it means making holes in me and draining my fluids.
I'm even an organ donor too.
But my blood-donating euphoria was short lived. I was in Canada during 9/11, and I wanted to give blood to help with the increased need in New York. A few weeks after I donated, I received a letter in the mail telling me to call an 800 number. It said my blood had been tested twice and received both a positive and an indeterminate result for some random acronym. Here is how the conversation went:
Me: Hi, I received a letter in the mail telling me to call this number. I guess my blood tested both positive and indeterminate for something.
Red Cross Lady: Okay, did it give you a name in the results?
Me: Yes, it was HTLV 2. I've never heard of it. Do you know what it is?
Red Cross Lady: (Suddenly sounding much more nervous and stressed than before) Oh, sir? Let me first tell you that because one of the tests was indeterminate, that means you don't have the disease. If you did, it would have tested positive both times.
Me: (Trying not to imagine all the possible mutating diseases that HTLV 2 could be) Okay ...
Red Cross Lady: I just want to make sure you know that you don't have it.
Me: Okay, but what is it?
Red Cross Lady: Well, it's like the Asian form of AIDS. It basically turns into leukemia. In North America, it has mostly shown up in port cities and has spread through the drug using population.
Me: (Feeling a little lightheaded) Oh, okay. So I don’t need to worry about it?
Red Cross Lady: No, you are just fine. If you want, you can go have your blood rechecked, but the results will be negative. Plus, it’s pretty aggressive, so if you did have it, there would be other symptoms. And if you don’t have the risk factors, then you’re definitely safe. Do you share needles?
Red Cross Lady: Are you sexually active?
Red Cross Lady: (Sounding much more upbeat) See? You have nothing to worry about. Our testing is so sensitive that we often get false positives. It could be anything, including the start of a cold that will red flag the test. The only downside is that you are now banned from giving blood to the Canadian Red Cross in.
When I got back to the United States, I tried to give blood again. It worked once, and then the second time I got a letter telling me I had a false positive for HTLV 2. I am now banned from giving blood in both the United States and Canada for a disease I don’t have.