An Easy Way to Ensure a Pandemic

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Non-Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
An unbelievable, true occurrence in the history of health-care.

Submitted: September 18, 2016

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Submitted: September 18, 2016

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An Easy Way to Ensure a Pandemic

 

One Saturday in 1985, my wife answered the phone in the other room as I sat eating my breakfast in the kitchen.  After finishing reading the morning paper and cleaning up my breakfast mess, it dawned on me that she was still talking on the phone.  I went into the living room just in time to see her hang up the phone in a brusque manner - visibly upset.

I asked her what was wrong.  What unfolded was one of the most bizarre stories I had ever encountered in my many decades involved with the health-care profession:

 

My wife belonged to a church where, once every year, the Hoxworth Blood Center (a local affiliate of the University of Cincinnati) would be invited to do a blood drive on the church grounds.  On that fateful Saturday morning. a representative for Hoxworth called my wife to tell her that if she would come down to the center for a new test, they could resume accepting her blood.  When my wife replied that she had been giving blood every year for many years, the caller responded by saying that they have had to dispose of her donated blood rather than incorporate it into the blood bank...

"Why?", she asked.

Total silence followed on the other end of the line followed by some unintelligible stammering about getting someone else to speak to her.  Eventually, another, more authoritative voice began assuring my wife that everything was fine and there was nothing to worry about.

"Then why was the blood thrown out?", she asked.

The voice laughed it off non-chalantly in an administratively bullshit laugh and light-heartedly explained that at one of her blood donations years ago she had tested positive for HIV.  Not allowing my wife time to respond, he continued very quickly that it was an older test which would sometimes give false positive results and that now there was a more specific test which would clear her so that they could again start using her donated blood.  It was at this juncture that my wife thanked them for the call and hung up abruptly feeling very concerned because she had tested positive for HIV.

Two things need to be emphasized here:  1. my wife obviously did not have HIV because 4 years had passed since the positive test for HIV and AIDS had not reared its ugly head; and (more importantly), 2.  NO ONE TOLD HER THAT SHE HAD TESTED POSITIVE FOR HIV.  In fact, no one told her in each of the next 4 years she donated blood, either;  they just threw the blood away.

Being a member of the health-care professions (I'm a pharmacist), I was not only angry on an emotional level concerning my wife, but I was angry on an intellectual level concerning the lack of logical reasoning on part of the health-care system, itself.  After explaining to my wife that she couldn't possibly be carrying the HIV due to the amount of time that had passed and the resultant lack of AID's symptoms, it was everything I could do to quell the intellectual anger welling up inside of me as more and more of the ramifications of this stupid policy on the part of Hoxworth kept surfacing.

My wife's first line of defense (her skin) had been knowingly violated on four separate occasions during blood draws that were not going to be used.  Where is the benefit/risk ration in this line of action?  There was no benefit to anyone involved.  There was, however, considerable risk involved: to my wife from breaking the integument of the skin as well as to the phlebotomist, who for all practical purposes was exposing himself/herself to my wife's positively tested HIV tainted blood.

This is just the tip of the iceberg, however.  The benefit/risk factor becomes much, much worse.  Had my wife's HIV test been an actual positive, she would have been unsuspectingly set free into society to possibly infect others (including me) with the disease.  This was a very real possibility, since her positive HIV test was still valid (as she had not been cleared by any other test).  So what is the benefit of sending someone who tested positive for HIV back into society ignorant of the fact that she could be spreading a deadly disease?

This was the question which brought my intellectual anger to a boil as I phoned Hoxworth Blood Center and demanded to speak with whoever was in charge.  I eventually found myself speaking with someone who identified herself as "Dr. Cary" and posed this benefit/risk question to her.  What resulted should make everyone's blood curdle.

It seems, according to Dr. Cary, that ALL the blood banks in the United States of America had agreed that it would be a good thing not to report any HIV test results - or even that that potential blood donors were being tested - because the blood banks were afraid it would add to the hysteria surrounding the AIDS situation and people would stop donating blood.

Yes, you've read correctly.  It seems that the benefits to be derived from arrogantly assuming the general public to be a bunch of ignorant slugs (and thus, not donating blood) far outweighed the risks incurred by the individual testing positive for HIV and then sending that ignorant individual back into the general public to spread one of the deadliest diseases since the bubonic plague.

Obviously, the worst side of this true story is the people who were never told they tested positive for HIV and actually had the disease.  They are probably dead now, leaving behind them tens of millions of infected individuals kept alive at the cost of trillions of health-care dollars.

Good job health-care system!

 

ADDENDUM

Say, you don't suppose that one of the reasons these mostly "for-profit" blood banks were afraid of people not donating blood had anything to do with profit margins and loss of revenue, do you?  Naw!  That would never happen.


© Copyright 2017 Thomas A. Roll. All rights reserved.

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