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What’s your blood type?  Have you, because of some problem, ever needed blood?  Have you ever given blood?

I understand that Thursday is World Blood Donor Day.

I have a pretty rare blood-type. As an A- (about 3.5% of the population) I can receive blood only from A+, A-, AB+, and AB- while I can give only to A- and O-.

AB+ can receive from anyone but give only to AB+, while O- can give to anyone and receive only from O-.

It has been a while since I have given blood. When I was a college student I sold blood pretty regularly. For a few years then I regularly gave blood. When I moved overseas I got out of the practice. It’s time to start doing this again.

Sometimes I write about disaster preparedness. We have a social responsibility, it seems to me, to help in a broader effort. Bad things happen to people and a good blood supply could save lives.

Just for the heck of it, lets have a poll or two.

My blood type is...

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Also, try this one. Choose your best answer and add comments below.

Giving blood

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About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in "How To..." - Practical Notes, Global Killer Asteroid Questions, POLLS, TEOTWAWKI and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. I gave blood for a while, being thankful for the donations of blood which saved my own life (on two occasions). However, I was refused a couple of times, being anaemic, and then the Government stopped all donors who had received blood themselves in the 1980s

  2. Denise says:

    Father, I believe you got your give and receive switched with regards to your own blood. As an A-, you may only receive A- or O- blood. However, you may give to any blood type that has the A type, whether it is positive or negative: A-, A+, AB-, or AB+. You carry anti-B antibodies so you would have an adverse reaction were you to receive anything with B. You would also develop anti rH antibodies should you receive any rH positive blood.

  3. Jbuntin says:

    I’m AB+… I used to give on a regular basis. The blood center here in Ft. Worth told me that they wanted to use my platelets so I agreed. It takes a couple of hours to give platelets, and that was fine but… they hounded me to give every two weeks until I was sick. They assured me it was safe to give that often but I got so anemic that I had to stop. They callled daily until I told them to please take me off the list.
    I was told by the blood donation center that AB+ platelets could be used on any blood type. But not sure if I believe anything they say anymore.
    I will give again because I think it’s important, but I will not let them dictate how often.

  4. guatadopt says:

    I am also A-. Because of that, I give blood as often as possible…typically 4 times per year.

  5. Indulgentiam says:

    I’m A+ and used to give regularly but I will not be eligable to donate again till 2016 due to radiation treatments. I will definitely go back when I am able.

  6. Legisperitus says:

    The blood on the Holy Shroud and at Lanciano is AB+. It’s not O-.

    The message? Pro multis, but not pro omnibus. ;-)

  7. Dominic Maria says:

    I would like to, but I have hemophobia as well as a terror of needles etc which makes it near impossible for me to walk into the place let alone have it done. It also sadly means that I couldn’t receive blood while conscious or I would have severe panic attacks etc. I hope many more people do donate though.

  8. alanphipps says:

    I am O-, and I try to donate once or twice per year.

  9. Phillip says:

    I am B+. I gave blood for the first time back in mid-March at boot camp. When I was next presented with the opportunity to donate at “A”-school, it had been too recently since I gave whole blood to donate again. I should figure out a good time to donate. There’s an Armed Services Blood Program blood bank here on base, and as an eligible donor (especially one who’s training to be a Corpsman), there’s really no reason why I shouldn’t make an effort to donate as often as possible.

  10. BaedaBenedictus says:

    I’m O-, the universal donor. But I can only receive O-.

  11. Southern Baron says:

    I was at a church this Sunday where the prayers of the faithful included “That healthy people will give blood.”

  12. Batfink says:

    I used to give regularly but then illness, pregnancy, breastfeeding, anemia etc. got in the way. When I went back, I was shocked to hear that I’d been away so long (4 years) that they’d deleted me off their list.

    Now I’m reinstated, 3 times a year for a woman.

  13. APX says:

    If they paid blood donors in Canada, and set up shop in the colleges and universities, they would be busy. I recall the line up for $20 for a mouth rinse for Sone hay fever or asthma experiment. I have never seen a line up that long!

  14. plemmen says:

    I gave blood for years, over five gallons worth (I have a pin somewhere) but due to health problems, I can no longer donate.

  15. Filipe says:

    Interesting story. Last time I gave blood was 9/11. I had accompanied my mother to the hospital in Lisbon and gave blood while waiting for her to be done with a minor surgery.
    As the nurse was asking me the typical questions he asked if I had had more than one sexual partner over the last 6 months. I answered that I had not.
    So he looked at me and insisted: “So just the same one then?”
    I was 21 at the time, unmarried and faithful to church teaching. I smiled and said: “None”. I don’t know which one of us was more embarassed.
    It did drive home the idea that nowdays people really just take it for granted that young people are sexually active.
    Then we got home for lunch and heard about the Twin Towers…

  16. Maltese says:

    Give blood, but don’t become an organ donor unless you want your organs harvested when you could have been saved!

  17. irishgirl says:

    I’ve given blood maybe, three times: twice when the bank I was working at had drives, and once at a local veterans’ post, sponsored by the Red Cross.
    I hated when they stick the fingertips to initially draw a sample to see if you’re anemic. They are very sensitive to pain.
    Then I had to climb up on the exam table and lay down (for some reason I never got to lie in the ‘lounge chair’) so they could ‘stick’ me with the needle in the elbow to draw out blood.
    I would never look when that was done. I’d turn my head away in the opposite direction, and squeeze the rubber ball they gave me to ‘pump’ the blood from my arm to the bottle.
    I never got dizzy or light-headed after giving blood, thank God-but I always liked the juice and cookies that were served after donating!
    Another thing: during those three times that I gave blood, my mind always went back to the scene in the classic silent movie, ‘The Passion of Joan of Arc’, when St. Joan [Renee Falconetti] was bled in prison following her falling ill of fever.

  18. I tried to give blood once but after the nurses did a check they told me I can’t give blood. My blood would apparently make the receiver very sick for a few days. My blood also apparently kills several types of mosquitoes.

    I’ll save you the long, almost impronounceable, medical word for it that I don’t even know how to spell correctly.

    There are some other drawbacks as well. If I exorcise too much my skin turns yellow and I pass out.

    On the other hand I rarely if ever get most of the illnesses that other people seem to get. My white blood cells are crazy aggressive for some reason. This has a good side in that I don’t get sick as often as other people but this also has a bad side. My white blood cells also attack the rest of me, specifically my red blood cells. They white is like the high school bully beating up on the red nerds.

  19. Kat says:

    I wish that I could give blood, but in college I kept tripping a false positive on one of the tests, and they threw me out of the blood pool. Every time I see a “give blood!” call I feel so bad, because I’m just not allowed to give, and I really want to — and not just because my family has a sort of “competition” on who’s given the most blood (my mother is winning with nearly 100 pints).

  20. Batfink says:

    @Filipe, I had a similar experience:

    When, as a university student, my fiance brought me to an A&E department one night, the doctor said, as a matter of routine “Is there any chance you could be pregnant?”
    Me: “No.”
    Doctor: “Are you sure?”
    Me: “Yes, I’m sure.”
    Doctor: “Well, we’ll do a pregnancy test anyway, just to make sure.”
    Me: “I don’t mind doing a pregnancy test, as long as I get treated. But I’m definitely not pregnant.”
    Doctor: “Well, people don’t always know exactly what behaviour can result in pregnancy, it’s not just full-on sex you know, sometimes contraception fails … it’s hard to be sure”
    Me: “I am aware of what behaviours lead to pregnancy and I’m definitely not pregnant. I have never had sex.”
    [Clearly embarrassed doctor slopes off but does send a nurse in with the test anyway].

    Grrr. So, just because I’m engaged automatically means I’m sleeping with him?!
    I wouldn’t mind if she had asked the question to start with an accepted my response; after all, there was no reason to assume I wasn’t sleeping with him. But after I had made it abundantly clear that I wasn’t pregnant she insisted on treating me like a complete idiot.

  21. Mrs. O says:

    I used to give frequently till I was told they didn’t need my type any more (A+). They call my husband all the time. In fact, he stops giving just blood and gives plasma now in order to have them call less frequently. He is o+.

  22. Mrs. O says:

    Let me just say this, he has given so much, that they told him if ANY of his loved ones ever needed blood, they would be covered completely. They came good on their statement when his mother went into the hospital. Takes a nice chunk of change off your bill too.

  23. Blaine says:

    I used to give regularly through high school and college, but I’m a pilot in the Navy now, so I’m generally forbidden from giving (barring unusual circumstances, which will take me out of a flight status for a time). Perhaps when I’m done I’ll get back into it.

  24. biberin says:

    I gave frequently as soon as I was old enough, but then had to wait for the scarring to go down to start again, and found it terribly painful (I’ve apparently got a valve right where they put the needle.). I sucked it up and went a couple months ago and it didn’t hurt, so maybe I’ll try again soon.

    Once in the ER in college, I was asked about pregnancy and said I wasn’t because I was a virgin. They offered lots of possibilities until I told them I hadn’t so much as kissed a boy in four years. The woman in the bed next to me was a fellow student known to be promiscuous, and all she had to tell them was that she hadn’t had sex since her last period. I had an outpatient procedure a couple years ago and the hospital snuck a preg test by me, after asking me and I told them I was not sexually active. When I found it on the bill, I asked why they trusted me to disclose cardiac risk factors but not sexual ones. They took it off my bill. Also had a Catholic physician insist I needed to be on the Pill in case “something happened.” He didnt quit until I cried. It used to be that it was an incredible insult to insist/assume that a woman was sexually active, and now they think we’re lying if we say we aren’t.

  25. teomatteo says:

    When my sister, who works in the ‘blood bank’ at our local hospital, told me that my type is very common and often is not needed i kinda lost the mojo to give. I can see the problem but i’m just kinda lazy now.

  26. Allan S. says:

    I received blood in the OR and MS-ICU following two surgeries on the same day. I had no BP and it saved my life.

    Thanks folks!

  27. Federico says:

    Used to give blood regularly. Now I am turned away because I lived too many years in the Europe in general, and in the UK in particular when the concerns about mad cow prions arose.

  28. J Kusske says:

    Last time I tried to give blood I was turned down because I’d visited China the past year, which according to the local Red Cross people is in danger of contracting malaria anywhere outside of developed cities. I’d taken the train between Beijing and Shanghai so they figured I was a potential risk. Now I’m living in China, and still haven’t gotten malaria, not that it would make any difference to them I’m sure.

  29. jaykay says:

    I’m O+, like almost 50% of people in Ireland. I gave loads of blood over the years, and even got the Irish Blood Transfusion Board’s “Golden Pelican” pin (they’ve been using this symbol for decades – it’s very attractive). However I’m now banned from giving again under the rules, due to a transfusion during an operation about 13 years ago. Pity, because I’d love to have kept doing it. You can donate up to age 65 here, all going well.

  30. JoAnna says:

    I’m O-, and I give blood as often as I can manage. I’ve been pregnant (or immediately postpartum) 6 times over the past 7 years, though, so I can’t donate as often as I’d like.

  31. jbincj says:

    AB+ I used to give often, but don’t (can’t) anymore…
    I gave blood for the first time in college (early 80’s) and was terrified -almost to the point of not going through with it. The phlebotomist saw the crucifix I was wearing and asked if I was a Christian. Then she said “if this helps, think about the blood that was ‘given’ by Christ on the cross”. These words and the immensity of His gift immediately eliminated my fears, and I began to donate regularly, using this thought of Jesus on the cross to overcome any fear.
    Unfortunately, because I spent 8 months of my junior year studying in Spain (somewhat close to UK) and it was in the 80’s, I was banned about 12 years ago from giving anymore.
    Puzzling to me though, is why it was OK to give for 20 years after my time in Spain, and then suddenly… not.

  32. brotherfee says:

    When trying to figure out what type of blood you can get, remember that your blood does not like presents, it only wants what it already has. So, if you have A- blood, and you try to give it B blood or a + Rh factor, it will see these types as foreign bodies and go crazy.

    If you have AB+, there are three antigens on the blood cell for A, B and + Rh, it likes everybody and can take any blood type, the universal recipient.

    If you have O-, there are no antigens, it cannot take anybody’s blood (except another O-) , other bloods are a foreign body. However, you can donate to everyone, the universal donor.

    Hope this helps.

  33. jenne says:

    Same as Frederico. I used to donate whenever I could but the the Mad Cow problem while I was living in Germany now keeps me on the off list.
    I have had the help of several donors at different times for post partum bleeding. Bless you all!

    And yes, Denise is correct on the reception of blood for you. Stick to A neg or O neg only – so you all with A neg especially O neg donate if you can.

  34. Pingback: BLOOD! BLOOD! MORE BLOOD! | Catholic Canada

  35. acricketchirps says:

    Used to give all the time when the Red Cross did it. After the tainted (hep C) blood scandal here in Canada in the 90’s, the guvmint took over collecting blood. Now it feels too much like paying taxes.

  36. Luvadoxi says:

    I lived in England in the 80s too, so I can’t give blood (mad cow). I don’t know when that took effect though, or if I gave blood after that before the restrictions; I can’t remember. I know I’ve given blood a number of times before that. I wonder if this is a lifetime ban; I’d really like to be able to help.

  37. Frank H says:

    I was a very regular donor until my diagnosis of prostate cancer this year. Being unable to donate blood is just one of many discombobulations associated with this situation.

  38. Cathy says:

    Father Z, I remember watching a program about Eucharistic Miracles and that the Blood of Christ was examined and typed. I honestly thought that He would be a universal donor and was profoundly touched by the fact that He is a universal receiver.

  39. Giuseppe says:

    I am an organ donor. If my life can be prolonged artificially for a surgical team to take my heart, lungs, pancreas, liver, kidneys, intestines, and corneas, then please give them to someone who needs one.

  40. markomalley says:

    Sadly, I’m prohibited from giving. Lived in the wrong parts of the world at the wrong time.

  41. randomcatholic says:

    Due to the fact that I lived in England as a child, I am out. They won’t accept my blood.

  42. Irene says:

    I am A+ and give about every two months if I pass the hemoglobin test. It needs to be 12.5 and sometimes mine is 12.4 (yes, I let them check both hands), which is very disappointing. I am fortunate that I can drive about ten miles and walk in to the Community Blood Center without an appointment. I am getting better at preparing: for three days prior I eat 1/3 pound lean ground beef, drinking orange juice with it instead of milk. I recently was told that sunflower seeds and dark chocolate (check for about 25% to 30% iron on label) is good too. Yessss!

  43. Thomas in MD says:

    O- and can’t give a drop. Too much time in Europe. Used to give all the time.

  44. cdnpriest says:

    Father, Denise is right: you switched your giving and receiving capabilities.

    Here is a table for those of you who are interested in knowing:

    -to whom you can give blood
    -from whom you can receive blood

    It also has the frequency of your blood type.

  45. MouseTemplar says:

    I’m A- and was allowed to give once, when I made the weight requirement. They couldn’t get enough for a unit in the time allotted according to them and had to discard the entire bag…now I don’t make the weight cut…

  46. cl00bie says:

    I have been permanently deferred as an O- donor because of elevated ALT (liver enzyme) levels 40 years ago during the Hep C scare (only they called it “Hep not A not B”.

  47. poohbear says:

    As a blood banker it is great to see this type of post. The Holy Father also mentioned blood donation in his weekly message on Sunday.

    Blood donations are needed especially in the summer when donations generally drop due to the regular donor being on vacation. Summer is also a time of high blood usage due to increased car accidents . Those two factors, combined with the need for blood for cancer and surgery patients, makes for a huge blood shortage.

    Each donated unit of blood can be separated into 4 components, thus helping up to 4 different people!

    Type AB plasma can be given to anyone while type O- red cells can be given to anyone. (O+ red cells can also be given to the majority of the population). Any type platelets can be given to anyone, however, AB platelets are preferred for infants.

    Platelets are only stable for up to 5 days after donation (hence why they call the regular platelet donors so often). Red blood cells are stable up to 56 days and plasma for up yo 1 year, frozen.

    Hope this was helpful and not to boring.

  48. poohbear says:

    plasma for up yo 1 year,

    * up TO one year (thought I got all the typos!)

  49. lucy says:

    My husband is A- and gives blood every 8-9 weeks. He’s also CMV negative. CMV = cytomegalovirus. Most folks carry this. For those that don’t it’s even more important that they give blood regularly. I’m sure as a NICU nurse, I gave my husband’s blood more than once over 10 years time. Premature babies need the CMV negative blood.

  50. Rachel K says:

    Mulier Fortis, I think the ban in the UK on giving blood if you have had a transfusion is a blanket one. I received blood in 1998 and can no longer donate. I understand this is because of the blood at that time not having been screened/ treated to prevent passing on infection. Is this the case in other countries or do we have this in the UK because of BSE?

  51. L. says:

    I’m O+ and used to donate as often as I could, but pretty much quit, for two reasons: the local Red Cross branch is unionized, and the people working there spent a lot of time complaining about their working conditions and I got tired of listening to it. The second is because when I would make an appointment to donate, I would still have to wait. I realized that the purpose of the appointment was to make sure they had people there to donate throughout the day and not to make sure I did not have to wait.

  52. I sold blood a few times in the latter 1960s and donated a number of times while serving in the Navy during the 1970s and first half of the 1980s. I stopped only after a Corpsman managed to hit what must have been the medial nerve in the inside of the elbow, leaving me with strangely unpleasant sensations in the forearm and hand of that arm for several years. Since the mid-1990s when I was placed on a regimen of a prescribed anticoagulant I have been unable to donate.

    Pax et bonum,
    Keith Töpfer

  53. HyacinthClare says:

    A childhood memory — my father had little plastic “blood drops” pinned to the sun visor on our car, one for every pint he had given. He’d given for years and years, several gallons, and was very proud of it. In 1972 I got hepatitis from a child at a day-care center where I was teaching. End of donations. I donated my own blood in advance of a surgery once… guaranteed not to catch anything I didn’t already have!

  54. poohbear says:

    @ L. Most Red Cross branches are unionized. Unfortunately, in many states, the only game in town is the Red Cross when it comes to providing blood to hospitals. While some may not want to patronize union establishments, in this case, unless your local hospital collects blood donations, there is no other supplier than the Red Cross. (and no, I don’t work for the Red Cross) :)

  55. SegoLily says:

    Lots of interesting trivia about blood types. I believe Type B is more prevalent in Africa and Asia than it is elsewhere. As you move westward across Europe, the rate of Type B diminishes. Having Eastern European roots, the frequency of Type B is higher than in Western Europe, so not surprising I may have inherited my blood type from Genghis Khan ;) There is a world map that demonstrates the frequency of blood types. I believe Native Americans are O predominant.

  56. SegoLily says:

    The threshhold for Americans barred from giving blood here is having spent 3 months in England in the early 80s, I believe, when consumption of beef may have occurred with Jakob Cruzfeldt Syndrome being unwittingly acquired. This is a devestating degenerative neurologic disorder, aka “Mad Cow Disease. A longshot, for sure, but most blood banks are ultra-cautious.

  57. Charles E Flynn says:


    Thanks for mentioning type O+ and Ireland. I am O+, and donate whenever there is a blood drive at my parish (we are well known to the local blood authorities as a good place to visit, even in the summer). My father was O-, and was not a regular donor. He stood by, waiting for a phone call from the local hospital. He always responded to an emergency.

    Those of you who used to donate and stopped because of some particular restriction should check to see if it has been lifted. I had a transfusion in the 1980s, which is no longer a disqualifying event where I live.

    I have a friend who lives in Minneapolis who has donated so many times that he has a card from the blood bank informing the police that the needle tracks on his arm are not a sign that he is a junkie. His local blood bank has a plaque in his honor.

  58. DelRayVA says:

    I used to think I was AB+, but when my daughter had some strange problems while in utero, they gave me and my wife a bunch of sophisticated tests. It turns out I’m actually “AM+”. In addition to A, B, and Rh, there are apparently the rather rare M, N, and S proteins that affect your blood type. Who knew? I checked “AB+” on your quiz, because you didn’t have my very rare blood type.

    Also, I take medication that prevents me from giving blood. I used to be a regular donor before that, though.

    My daughter was fine, BTW. They just monitored her closely until she was born, and there were no problems.

  59. AnAmericanMother says:

    Have always donated blood a couple of times a year. The last few times they had a blood drive at church, though, I wasn’t eligible because of being on antibiotics. But I’ll pony up the next time around. Seem to have plenty of blood volume – never feel faint afterwards, and they don’t seem to have any trouble finding a vein.

  60. Charles E Flynn says:


    I take tetracycline daily, and that is not a disqualifying event where I live.

    I am curious about the questionnaire that most of you have to fill out prior to donating. Where I live, the questions are revised regularly. One time, I could hardly believe what I was reading, which I have slightly parodied for comic effect:

    Question n: Have you ever paid money to have sex with someone who had sex with someone who thought that the “Saturday Night Live” skit about traveling to Haiti to have sex before it is too late was funny?

    Question n+1: Are you sure?

    Question n+2: Are you lying?

    Question n+3: Which definition of “lying” do you use”?

    1. Mark Shea’s
    2. Dr. Janet Smith’s
    3. Peter Kreeft’s

    Question n+4: Are you telling the truth about which definition of “lying” you are using?

    Regardless of the answers, the post-donation Fig Newtons are always a delight.

  61. acardnal says:

    Connecting this post with a previous one on the Shroud of Turin, I think they tested the blood stains on the shroud and determined they were AB- which is the most rare.

  62. VivaLaMezzo says:

    I give whole blood or do apheresis… whatever is needed. I try to schedule it on Fridays b/c it seems an appropriate sacrifice. I struggle with borderline-low iron, so sometimes I can’t give. Hubby is O+. He also gives regularly.

    I am also an organ donor. If I truly believe nothing happens without God’s knowledge/permission (and I try to), then even my prematurely harvested organs will be a part of His plan. ^_~

  63. AnnAsher says:

    I have never given blood. I tried once and had a fever. I’m thinking I should find out if I can donate under current medical conditions and face my fears.

  64. deliberatejoy says:

    B+, but I’ve never been able to donate. I have shy and terrified veins. :P

  65. SegoLily says:

    I would think if Jesus was the “Universal Receiver” he would be AB+. I’m going to fact check that blood type on the Shroud of Turin, and the one of the miracle of the blood-containing cardiac tissue in the consecrated host. I’m sure I read where they were analyzed to have AB+ the only true Universal Receiver blood type. Jesus wouldn’t want to exclude the negatives (-) now, would He?

  66. Melody says:

    I would like to give blood more (I have AB-, the most rare) but every time I have tried they tell me my red blood count is too low to give safety. One time I did pass but was only able to fill half a bag before my arm started hurting and going numb.
    Also, the same type as the shroud of Turin? That is just marvelous!

  67. AnAmericanMother says:

    I think it depends which type of antibiotics and whether you’re taking them for an active infection of some kind or just to stave something off – as in the low-dosage E-mycin or doxycycline for acne.

  68. capchoirgirl says:

    Sadly, I can’t give blood. For years I didn’t weigh enough, but I’m also anemic, and my veins are totally shot for thirty years of IV lines, blood tests, and all that jazz.

  69. lelnet says:

    I used to give pretty regularly. Then I was disqualified by a rule that seems excessively paranoid. (Yes, I know that “have you had homosexual intercourse even once since 1978” is meant to catch closet cases who are having homosexual intercourse regularly and might pick up a new disease from it at any point, rather than one-time-20-years-ago victims of violent gang rape who’ve been repeatedly tested for every STD known to science found negative every time, but the rule is still the rule.)

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