Or, for this story, it should be Sweat, Tears, & Blood.
Sweat: What I do all day, every day, 24/7, with no end in sight. If you knew me from up North, you may remember that I loved going out in the winter with no coat, I only wore a sweater in the winter to work if it was really nasty and below 10F, and then only if it was really windy and freezing precipitation would soak me. On the weekends I loved working in the barn all day in my Carhart overalls and a flannel shirt, but I have traded my overalls for Carhart shorts. I am usually dripping wet from working outside now by about 8:30am and stay sweaty all day when I am working. So, I KNOW sweat. I do like it here though, I don’t have to worry about frozen pipes, the trucks are easy to start (well, they aren’t hard to start due to the cold), and Marge likes to go outside with me year round now.
Tears: We have had our heartbreaks here as we would have if we were back in the US. We have experienced the death of friends here and have worked on our experiences with this in the communities with the expats and the locals. Our ever changing pack of dogs has had the natural attrition starting with the very predictable passing of Mellow, then our potlicker Recona, and also the Ruckus Twins. Those that know us understand that our dogs and horses are very dear to us and the passing of each pet is hard. We have been very fortunate at this point in time though that all our close family and friends are doing well, with a few exceptions. We have been in contact with those who we know are having difficult times and are thankful that we have internet to keep in contact.
Last but not least – BLOOD! When we moved here from the US I doubted that I would be giving blood again in my life. While in the US I donated blood 34 times (I still have my donor card – I know, anal me) and I did pheresis a number of times (white blood cells and platelets for cancer or leukemia patients). I believe the last time I gave blood in the US was in 2004, before we came to Belize for the first time in January 2005. After that visit I called the Red Cross to see if I could donate again and was told that I had to wait one year. Marge and I never stayed out of Belize for more than a year at that point so I was never eligible to donate again in the US.
After moving here in 2007 I always thought I would never be able to donate blood again since we have lived here permanently for so long. However, I never really gave much thought to donating blood HERE in Belize – why not? I don’t know, it never really crossed my mind. Anyway, about a month ago Marge was reading the Belize Ag Report, and was skimming the classified ads (yes, Marge is reading EVERYTHING she can get her hands on since there is a lack of new books in the country). She found an ad from someone searching for O negative blood. Huh, why is that? A specific type, that’s strange, and that’s MY blood type. We recognized the email address to respond to and it was a friend of ours, so we sent off an email and got an immediate response.
OK, here is how small Belize is: the email we sent was to a friend that is the publisher of the Ag Report. She put us in contact with someone else whose kid has a blood disorder and needs regular transfusions of O neg blood. We know the kid’s mother, I have met the kid and know all the brothers and sisters of the mother, one brother very well. And in Belize, all this is out in the open, no big HIPPA problem here.
So, on Tuesday I went and had lunch with the mother and we talked about business, living here in Belize, etc. and also about the health and problems her son has. Everything is out in the open and I have the correct blood type (I am #37 in the country as a possible donor) so I am so psyched to help this young guy. The mother showed me to the hospital, introduced me to the blood donor lab, and got me set up to give my first pint here in Belize! Wow, back in the blood donating game again.
Well, donating here in Belize is ultimately the same as in the US when everything goes well in that the donor is 1 pint down, feels fine, and walks out happy and the blood bank is happy since they have 1 more unit of blood.
There are some differences though:
In Belize you sit upright in a comfortable hospital type chair with armrests and your feet up. This chair takes up ¾ of the donation room. In the US you get a table to lie down and look at the ceiling and from my experience there is usually 1 nurse/lab tech working on 2-4 donors at a time.
The consent form here in Belize has one declaration on it, you have to disclose if you have had malaria in the past; that’s it, nothing else. What I remember from the US, there was a four page questionnaire that took about 10-15 minutes to read and check the boxes and then the screener would ask questions for another couple of minutes. Then, in the US, you got a bar code form so that you could remove a sticker for accept or not accept the blood; in other words, if they take the blood and you have lied on the questionnaire, you can pull the sticker to say don’t accept that unit of blood, give blood at that time, and they will discard your donation after you leave.
In Belize, they draw a sample vial to test your blood right there in the lab before you donate to see if they should draw a full unit. I was told that people with low blood counts get refused here all the time. I am not sure what they test but they passed me right off. In the US, they prick your ear or finger tip, put the drop in a test tube and watch the blood sink to the bottom to test your iron levels or something. In the US they pull additional vials for testing but that is done later after you donate and leave.
In talking with the guy drawing my blood (by the way, he did a great job getting into the vein 1st try and didn’t have to rearrange it to get a good flow) if you partially fill a unit and your vein collapses (this happened to me many times in the US), they will withdraw the needle and take more blood. In NY State, if you only give a partial unit and your vein collapses, they are not allowed to stick you again to finish the unit, and the entire unit is thrown out.
Here in Belize, when you are done, you get some juice and you are on your way. In the US, you get juice and COOKIES, then you are on your way. I do miss the cookies.
Belize rules are you can donate every 90 days. I think it is every 56 days in the US.
Overall, giving blood here in Belize was simple and I was glad to do it, makes me feel like I am “plugged back into the community” again.