As blood donations restrictions roll back, new pool of donors roll-up sleeves

Published: Feb. 23, 2023 at 5:36 PM CST
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LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) - Here in Nebraska and across the country we’ve heard about the need for more blood donations.

Just a few months ago, the FDA lifted a decades-old restriction which now allows those who had potential exposure to Mad Cow Disease from time spent in Europe to roll up their sleeves.

It’s welcomed news for blood donation sites, including the Nebraska Community Blood Bank and for 10/11 Now’s own Executive Producer Brett Baker, who has been waiting to give blood for more than 20 years.

When Baker couldn’t give blood he got involved on the advisory board for the blood bank instead.

For his first donation in two decades, Baker said he was not nervous, he was excited.

“I’m O negative so that’s like something you guys always want here, they always want it,” Baker said. “So I’m happy to be able to do that again.”

Baker hasn’t been able to give blood since his time in the United States Airforce.

He was stationed in England from 1992 to 1995, meaning he may have been exposed to Cruetzfeldt-Jakob Disease, it’s more commonly known as Mad Cow.

Since then, he said he’s been frustrated hearing about the need for blood donations but not being able to do anything about it.

“Donating blood is like one of the least things you can do. All it takes is a half hour or something,” Baker said. “So not being able to help out on that end was, you know, or do your part was frustrating. Disappointing.”

The Nebraska Community Blood Bank said it’s always in need of donors and this repeal opens the door for more people like Baker.

“Only 38% of the population is ever eligible to donate blood,” said Kari Lundeen with NCBB. “So expanding and lifting those deferrals just means that there are more people in the donor pool who can now give blood and help out our local hospitals.”

This repeal applies to people who went to the UK from 1980 to 1996 like Baker, people who spent time in France and Ireland from 1980 to 2001, and people who received a blood transfusion in the U.K., France, and Ireland from 1980 until the present.