Thursday, January 15, 2009

Tainted Blood

In the early 1980's NATO had a program to encourage scientists to work in the research labs of other NATO countries. All that was necessary was that two research groups agree on a project of "strategic importance" to NATO and agree on who the exchange scholars would be. Our group co-operated with a group in the chemistry department of Durham University (In Durham Town (recently (and disturbingly) in the news). Wouldn't you know we got the grant, I got married and headed for England.

Now, we loved our time in Durham. It seemed every street had a convenience store, a pub and a candy shop. We developed an unhealthy love of Thornton's toffee and prawn flavoured crisps (there were root beer flavoured ones as well). Every night we went for hour long walks that were always rewarding. All in all it was a precious combination of honeymoon, adventure and research. The setting was fantastic and the research done in those four months in fact laid the foundation for the research discoveries that would form my thesis three years later. The last two months however I was on my own and my cooking skills were rudimentary at best.

I can well remember rummaging through the tins of prepared meals. I remember one especially that was labelled "Irish Stew with Meat" the list of possible meats in the tin was a bit more than what you would see in Canada and included horse and rabbit. There were other tins of stew that contained something called "Super rabbit" (whatever that was). I figured "when in Rome" heated it up and ate it like a soldier.

The reason why any of this is at all relevant is because the Canadian Blood Services came to our university today. Here in Canada blood is donated and distributed to anyone that needs it. The system has its problems but all in all it works for us. A few years back my family doctor suggested that I start taking a blood pressure medication as a preventative measure since my blood pressure was "high normal" and heart disease runs in my family. That was fine with me but it meant that I could no longer donate blood. It turns out however that since then they have changed their policy and can use blood products containing my medication.

So I wander on down to the mobile clinic and started the procedure, got interviewed three times (with an obsessive interest in my recent sexual history) filled out three forms with redundant information. I finally was eyeballed and interviewed by a nurse, who noticed that I had checked "yes" when the form asked if I had ever lived in England. Suddenly, there was a flurriment and skufflement and a hushed conference behind a screen and I was informed that the Canadian Blood Services did NOT want MY blood because I may be harbouring bovine spongiform encephalopathy prion. Indeed, they did not seem so keen to even be in the same small space with me any more and I was informed that I should leave by the employees exit.

It all explains so much. The loss of my hair and memory, having to pee in the middle of the night and the fact that when I cross the blueline and make a hard cut to the left I fall down (much to the hilarity of the defense). So it is only a matter of time ... I blame it all on the "Irish Stew with Meat".

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About Me

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For a while it was all about research and then it was all about teaching and now it's all about trying to find a balance while teaching at a small liberal arts and science university.