Friday, September 24, 2010

Blood Needs in Kangnam: A- Negative, and Call for Solutions

While Michael Simning's blood-drive seems to have seen him through the first period of urgent need (Yeah Gwangju! You rock!), there are still ways that you, or anybody in Gwangju, can help.  For more information, here's a post from ten magazine.  Basically: continue to support Michael's businesses in Gwangju, donate if you can/want, and be ready for the next time he needs blood.  More at Kimchi and Cornbread about the Simning night last weekend.

Please remember, especially if you have a rare blood type, to get connected with Blood Connections, the facebook group, and the ATEK blood registry, at  Not many Koreans have negative RH's in their blood types, so you ought to be thinking about what implications that carries for you.

Meanwhile, I got an e-mail from a lady named Colleen.  She passes word on to me about a need for A negative blood in Kangnam: a lady named Kargan Valmalmine is in Samsung Hospital in Kangnam.

Now, it's really great that Michael Simning has had so much support in Gwangju; Kargan hasn't been in Seoul for as long, and hasn't contributed as much to Seoul's expat community as Mr. Simning, but that doesn't mean her need for blood is less urgent.

Unfortunately, according to my e-mailings with Colleen, and the messages on the Blood Connections facebook page, it looks like we don't have a clear English-speaking go-to contact who will help donors negotiate the language difficulties; I can send you to this page of mine, which runs down the basics of who can and can't, and how to donate, and includes some important forms; however, there continue to be mixed messages at blood donation clinics about whether foreigners (even those who meet all the other requirements) can donate; generally, you can only be sure they'll let you donate if you speak enough Korean to answer a few interview questions in Korean, have lived in Korea for more than a year, and aren't from the UK (darn Creutzfeldt-Jacob disease).  I trust that when an English-and-Korean speaking contact becomes available to facilitate donations becomes available, that information will be posted on the blood connections facebook page, so unless your Korean's sharp, I hope that'll be helpful for now.

Meanwhile, this is getting ridiculous.

Ladies and gentlemen, Korea is an increasingly multicultural country, and it's ludicrous that non-Koreans are running into so freaking many roadblocks just to donate blood, especially when we have many of the blood types that are uncommon in Korea.  You'd think that Korean hospitals would be opening their doors and donation chairs to welcome our rare, exotic bloods, and instead we're getting the runaround, "Korean Only" signs and occasional bullshit explanations that "Oh, you can't mix foreign blood with Korean blood.  Didn't you know that?" (anecdotally, that's been told to SEVERAL of my contacts when they tried to donate).

What are our options?  How can we stir some shit up, to get some movement on this, to facilitate easier donation?  What protocols do Canada or USA or the UK have for taking blood from non-citizens?  Is the NHRCK the way to go?  Letter-writing campaigns to our respective embassies?  Something else?  Because if we're chasing our tails and playing the "I don't know... can we? Can't we?" game every time a need comes up, that's stupid.  Hey Blood Connections People: this is your group, this is your battle.  Coordinate something.  Figure something out.  Contact a human rights lawyer or three and find out the options, because I don't want to be up shit creek without a paddle when it turns out Koreans don't carry my blood type, and they refuse to accept donations from those who do, and I don't think any of my readers want that, either.  Whatever action it is -- signing or submitting a complaint to the NHRCK, or whatever else, I'm on board, and I'll promote it here, and try to get my blog friends to promote it, too, because this blood discrimination is supposed to be a thing of Korea's past, and needs like this are only going to become more common in Korea's future.

Before we go big-picture, though, don't forget: if you're in the Kangnam area, somebody needs A negative blood.

Discussion in the comments.


This Is Me Posting said...

"Oh, you can't mix foreign blood with Korean blood. Didn't you know that?" (anecdotally, that's been told to SEVERAL of my contacts when they tried to donate).

This implies that the nurses or doctors in charge of blood drives are the people turning donors away, as most often then not, one must at least be a nurse to supervise in blood donations.

My advice to expats seeking medical attention in Korea is to GET OUT and seek it somewhere where they actually study medicine and, you know, understand basic bloody (no pun intended) biology.

If the medics in Korea don't even understand how blood works (and coupled with the previous "Korean people don't get swine flu because we eat kimchi, but you dirty foreigners stay in this quarantine" fiasco), how on Earth are they allowed to practice medicine? Furthermore, why the Hell are people seeking medical aid in a country so completely and utterly inept and incompetent in medicine?

Anonymous said...

^ Wow, spitfire! Hot headed, much?

Roboseyo, I am sure there should be good reasons for them being reluctant to receive blood donation from foreigners other than being foreigners. I wish they explained their reasons more clearly but there being a language barrier it would not be so easy for them to do so.

Msleetobe said...

I don't know what to do, but I'm 100% with you on this issue. I'm O- and married to Korean (ie. plan to stay here for another decade and plan to give birth here) which means I'm terrified. I'm part of Blood Connections, and I worked on the editing team for the Red Cross manual's English translation, put out FB status updates when people need negative blood (and found people to donate B- through that method), and I'm working on doing a presentation for my uni classes on this issue when we study persuasive presentations in a month...but it's not enough. And I'm sick of my friends - 'model' foreigners, married to Koreans, been in Korea forever, being turned away or hassled because of prejudice. I don't understand how people in charge of collecting blood don't realize that this is a great way for 'foreigners' to HELP Koreans. So if you or someone comes up with a great solution or action plan, I'm all for being involved.

Cait said...

Hey Rob,

Can you specify what you mean by lived in Korea for more than a year. I spend a year in Korea, went home for six months and now I'm in the middle of my second contract. I've technically lived in Korea for over a year, but will that long of a stay back home disqualify me?

I'm O-, so it would be great if I was eligible to donate.


Roboseyo said...

MsLeeToBe: I think the first thing to do is to start collecting those accounts of being turned away from the blood clinic: when, who turned them away, what reasons were given?

I'd like to try to use some of my connections to get the story of foreigners trying to give blood, and being refused, out into the Korean media, translated into Korean, and the more such incidents we have, the more credibility we have.

@anonymous: The time I personally was told "foreign blood and Korean blood together has problems" was from one of the nurses at a blood clinic, and she was speaking in Korean to a friend who speaks Korean well.

@Cait: For a year probably means a year continuously, but then, as long as you haven't been to countries that are malaria risks, like some places in southeast Asia and North Korea, you can probably get away win a noncontinuous year. Regardless, can't hurt to try.

Eugene said...

This is really hard to believe, but then again, I've never given blood in Korea. I'm A+, so it's not like my blood type is at all rare, but it's a sharp contrast with Japan, where they have bikkes on the street harassing everyone trying to get them to give blood, and giving donors 20 bucks to boot!

Roboseyo said...

They have bikkis on the street here, too, because Korea, I'm told, has had a constant blood shortage since they stopped taking mandatory donations from men doing their military service. But then, some of my contacts have reported being literally pushed out of the donor's chair, because they're foreigners.

Anonymous said...

For what it's worth, there's some controversy in Japan too regarding blood donations.

The rule here is anyone who's been in the US/UK for longer than a year or so, whether Japanese-nationality or not, can't donate blood because of the BSE/CJD issues.

Conveniently this rules out US/UK citizens, but I'm not sure what the deal is with non-Japanese from other countries. I have a feeling it's the same story as Korea.

Roboseyo said...

I don't doubt that you'd find that in Canada, too, though: the BSE/CJD protein has such a long gestation period. However, there's no reason people from Bangladesh, Canada, Egypt or Brazil shouldn't be able to donate, either.