All in Vein

Alternative post title: The Day I Decided to Become a Plasma Donor.

In school, they taught us all the things about blood type compatibility; about antigens on the surface of red blood cells, anti-A / anti-B antibodies, Rh positive / negative, phenotype and genotype, how O- is the universal blood donor, AB+ the universal acceptor, so on and so forth.

My mother was the one who first brought me to a donation centre to donate blood, and over time, helping others via donating blood became my own passion. I’ve been a regular whole blood donor for a while, and donated every 3 months except during the period when I was iron deficient (I was donating regularly and restricting food at the same time; long story). Donors don’t get financially compensated in Australia, but the knowledge that my blood could save three lives, as Red Cross heavily promotes, was enough.

My blood donation centre of choice was the mobile centre near work. They would appear every 3 months, and because my boss also supported the idea, I could often pop out during work for a quick donation. Every time the staff at the mobile centre would make me feel like I was doing the right thing. They would thank me like they personally and directly benefit from my deed.

Blood Donation Jul 2015: Last Whole Blood Donation
Blood Donation Jul 2015: Quite possibly the last whole blood donation

Today, something changed. The finger pricking was done on a painful part of the fingertip. It bruised. Two staff frowned at me and asked if I’d made an appointment (I did), both at interview and the donation chair, and told me they wouldn’t normally take my blood type. They completed the procedure and hurried me along. It was as though I was wasting their time.

I was fully aware of the fact that my AB+ blood is only useful for the also AB+ population, the only ones who could take the blood type transfusion without ill effects. But it was only then, today, a staff handed me a brochure about plasma donation. People with AB+ blood are universal blood recipients because we don’t have anti-A and anti-B antibodies to react to the antigens that may be present on the red blood cells in other blood types, and for the exact reason our plasma has the opposite effect: AB plasma doesn’t contain anti-A and anti-B antibodies and can therefore be received by all blood types. So essentially by donating my full blood the whole time I’ve been wasting their time, my time, and my red blood cells.

ABO Blood Type
ABO Blood Type from the Wikipedia article

I was never taught anything other than blood transfusion in school; the theory was all there but I just never made the connection. Even Mum didn’t seem to know about the “opposite” compatibility until I told her for the first time. In some obscure way, I feel slightly more humble today realising that I apparently could only take AB plasma and nothing else.

But Red Cross really, really has to promote plasma and platelet donations as much as they do whole blood.

I suppose it is more effective to sell one message at a time. I suppose “save 3 lives” is less complicated a message than “make 17 life-saving products”. I suppose most people’s whole blood is far more useful than my own, which I only share with 3% of the world population. I suppose one of the criteria for plasma donation is having successfully donated full blood at least once within the last 2 years. I don’t condone making a donor feel unwelcome (it probably wasn’t even their intention), but I suppose it all worked out in the end.

From the next donation on, I’ll be giving my universally accepted AB plasma. It’s a much longer procedure and one that cannot be done at a mobile donation site, but helping other less fortunate, donating what I can, is my passion.

Today is the day I decided to become a plasma donor.

I Used to Judge

I used to judge.

I used to judge parents who feed their children rubbish. I used to judge parents who make the TV the first choice of entertainment. I used to judge parents who let their children run riot. I was certain that I ever had children, I would feed them the most nutritious fresh food every day. I would supply them with toys that are educational and let them use their imagination. I would control my children in public. I would be consistent but not strict.

But if rubbish is the only food the child would eat or they would literally go without, but if the TV is the only thing that gives a parent enough time to pop into the shower and take care of themselves, then who am I, an outsider, to judge? An outsider who learnt much of her spoken English through watching TV, and a good bit of Japanese through playing video games?

I still judge parents who are so strict their children are scared to be children, scared to even speak up. I still judge parents who think applying violence is the first and foremost or even the only parenting method.

And I’m really afraid that would change.

Ponderings Before the Trip

If I had a choice, I would rather not go back to Hong Kong in July. The summer weather in Hong Kong is horribly unstable, hot and humid, and I’ve also already gone back in early January for a visit before my first ski trip in Japan. Alas, the aunt from Canada just got married earlier, and has decided to bring her daughter and new husband all the way to Hong Kong for a giant reunion, with a professional family photoshoot, a feast and all. This would normally just mean I’m seeing the aunt and cousin from Canada whom I admittedly haven’t seen for many years. This trip, however, is much bigger than a family reunion for me.

This time, unlike all previous trips back home, I’ll be bringing along the boyfriend — the first person I’ve gone serious enough to bring home.

I’ve been stressing about the trip long before it. When the dates were first announced, Richard and I had only been together for about 3 months. At that point, we’d already met each other’s friends but not family. I also hadn’t told my family about him yet, not because I’m ashamed of him, and not because my family would have any issue of him being of a different race; it’s half because I never really had the opportunity, and half for a private reason close friends would know about.

On the actual dates of the trip, we would only have been together for 5 months. 5 months isn’t a short time to meet a partner’s family; but 5 months, dragging someone overseas meeting everyone who speaks a different main language and from a different culture all in one go in a massive family function, might just be too much. The question of “Is this too soon?” kept running over and over in my head, and over and over in conversations with good friends and colleagues (sorry, you unfortunate folks).

There’s also an additional but usual dread. I try to stay positive on this blog, so I wouldn’t think anyone to suspect that I haven’t had the most pleasant childhood in Hong Kong. I shall not go into details here other than the fact that it’s not sexual trauma, but even until now, years into my adulthood and staying so far away from the place, I’m still haunted by regular nightmares that wake me in the middle of the night in sweat and tears. I haven’t disclosed the details to many, but a couple of the few I have, people whom I thought I could trust, have told me to just get over it. That did not and will not ever help.

If I had a choice, I would really not go back to Hong Kong at all.

Shortly after I confirmed the dates with the parents, I told Richard about the trip — my trip. I really wasn’t sure how he would react to it. What if he says nothing to this? Do I then suggest for him to come along? Should I hint? Should I ask? Is this too soon?

I paused. He was quiet for one second, then asked if I would like him to come along.

I think I am ready. I think we are ready. Tomorrow, this is happening.

Paternal Grandma

I got news from Dad that his mother passed away this morning.

I hadn’t seen my paternal grandmother in years because I’m overseas here in Australia and was always coming up with various excuses to not travel back. The last time I visited and saw her was quite a few years ago. She was not always happy, but looked well enough.

She was alive.

I never felt close to her. The one event with her that I remembered particularly well happened many years back. We had a dinner event of some sort at my family’s place with several relatives and cousins over. I was the only female cousin.

We were all lounging around while dinner was being cooked by the domestic helper (we’re spoilt). Mum was in the kitchen to make sure the domestic helper was doing everything correctly.

That’s when Grandma asked me to help in the kitchen, with a disapproving face that suggested that she thought I should have done so already on my own.

She asked me to help in the kitchen. Me alone. Not any of my other cousins — male cousins. I didn’t react well to that.

The one event with her that really stood out to me was negative.

I was at work and wasn’t quite sure how to react when I heard the news. I didn’t think I was upset, and I was quite bothered by how calm I was.

That’s until I broke the news to the colleagues then the tears just started to flow. The finality of death.

I’m worried about Dad. Grandma was very dear to him.