ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Q: Why don’t you give blood every three months? It could save a life!
A: I have wanted to give blood as my wife does, but 40-some years ago, I suffered briefly from hepatitis, and the New Mexico Blood Bank, understandably cautious, will not let me donate. I would much rather have donated a pint of blood 160 times since then than have had hepatitis (viral infection of the liver). It wasn’t much fun.
Forty years ago, New Mexicans were much more likely to contract hepatitis A than residents of most other states. It was said that about one in 10 Indian Health Service doctors serving in the Four Corners area got the disease, and I was that one. It was fall of 1971 – I remember, because I went to a Halloween party as a pumpkin, and I didn’t need much of a costume, since I was orange.
I was lucky – it wasn’t terribly severe, though I felt nauseous for a couple of weeks, had little energy and little appetite, and my eyes and my skin turned a bright orange color. In those days, it was thought necessary to rest hepatitis patients (later Army studies showed no difference in recovery in rested as compared with calisthenics-assigned patients). Rest wasn’t necessary, but what was very important was being very careful with bowel movements and vomit, since I could have infected contacts with just a small amount of poor handwashing. Fortunately, my wife did not get the virus, and so she gives blood. Now hepatitis A is very uncommon even here in the Southwest, thanks to a vaccine, recommended for all young children.