Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Canadian teen blocked from giving blood because she's deaf

From The Chronicle Herald in Nova Scotia, Canada:

Halifax teenager Jamie Routledge (pictured) wanted to do a good deed at her school recently but was unexpectedly thwarted.

The Grade 12 student was prepared to give blood at a clinic at J.L. Ilsley High School on Oct. 17. But a person staffing the Canadian Blood Services event abruptly turned Jamie down because she is deaf.

Jamie said Oct. 24 she was humiliated by what she felt was a lack of respect on the part of blood services staff at the clinic.

"Why didn’t they let me give blood? It’s not like I was going to infect other people with deafness," she said through her mother, who was interpreting sign language.

Jamie said she’s heard about other deaf people in Nova Scotia who’ve had trouble donating blood.

"They never did anything to say ‘Sorry’ or ‘Thank you for trying,’ " she said of the clinic’s staff at the school that day.

Her mom, Janet Josselyn, said she was stunned to learn that her daughter, an active young woman who plays varsity volleyball at J.L. Ilsley, wasn’t allowed to give blood.
"She’s really athletic (and) she’s an honours student (and) works as a babysitter for a little boy," Ms. Josselyn said Thursday. "The only thing that that girl doesn’t do is hear."

According to one of her friends, classmate Selena Cotter-Earle, Jamie was denied the chance to donate her blood simply because of her disability.

"This is outrageous," Selena said in a strongly worded letter to The Chronicle Herald. In an interview, Selena said she was so angry about how Jamie was treated that she contacted the newspaper to let the public know.

A spokeswoman with the blood collection agency said in an email that her organization welcomes deaf donors. But "unfortunately, due to a busy clinic . . . our staff misinterpreted the policy and (Jamie) was unnecessarily deferred."

Jillian Brown publicly apologized and expressed hope that Jamie will make a future blood donation.

Ms. Josselyn, a mother of two, said Jamie was born without the ability to hear. The 17-year-old had been hoping to give blood for the first time in her life.

Canadian Blood Services has basic eligibility requirements for potential donors, its website says. These include age, weight, health and frequency of donations.

"Final eligibility determination rests with the screening staff at the donor clinic," the website says.

Ms. Brown said donors who are deaf or hearing-impaired "have always been able to complete the oral part of our questionnaire (called the record of donation) in written form. Even more recently, if they prefer, donors can book an appointment through our national contact centre."

"We deeply regret any inconvenience we caused this donor and we do hope that she will give us another chance," Ms. Brown said.

Though stung by the rejection, Jamie said she still intends to give blood someday and "help save people’s lives."