A Donation Refused: Roasted Marrow Bones

Tuesday, May 29, 2012


-Is there anything so lust-worthy that kind of looks like a booger? I doubt it.-

Men Who Have Sex with Men

Men who have had sex with other men within the past 5 years are currently not eligible to join the Be The Match Registry® as a potential marrow donor. This is because men who have sex with other men are, as a group, at increased risk for HIV.

The long-standing exclusion of at-risk groups for HIV from the registry aligns with the policy of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which was set to minimize the risk of HIV transmission through blood and tissue donation.

More information regarding the FDA’s tissue donation policy pertinent to men who have sex with men is available on the FDA website (see section IV.E).

We periodically revisit this issue in consultation with our independent Donor and Patient Safety Committee, weighing the risk and benefit to patients in need of a transplant as new information becomes available. The FDA also periodically revisits this issue, and we continue to take into account their guidance in evaluating our own policy.

~National Marrow Donor Program

-"Sorry if we hurt your feelings."-

I highly recommend you read that section IV.E. It's a doozy of a list, but you'll notice a few odd things. If you've been incarcerated you only have to wait a year to donate blood, organs, or bone marrow. If you're gay you have to be celibate for five years and that has about as much chance happening as Michael Bay making a film where nothing explodes.

But, then again, there's a bunch of odd rules like being banned from donating if you lived in the UK for three consecutive months, or in greater Europe for five years, or if you have dementia because somehow that affects how sturdy your marrow might be, I guess.

The reason I bring this is up is because a few weeks back I had finally decided to look into becoming a bone marrow donor. I was healthy, I had good insurance, and I wasn't getting any younger for it as much as I would like to think otherwise. (I turn 29 this weekend, godhelpme.)

I had heard the procedure was a more than a bit painful and the recovery somewhat tedious, though medical advances had been made for the procedure to be less invasive. Or, at least as less invasive as harvesting the tender humors from the inside your femur with a drill can be.

"What do you mean, I'm not an ideal candidate?" I asked poor Tiffany, the National Marrow Donor Program (NMDP) girl I was now raising my voice at over the phone.

 -Pardon?-

And then I found out I was not what the NMDP or FDA consider to be an "ideal candidate."

"I'm sorry, but it's an FDA guideline," her tone was audibly repentant. She had, I could guess, had to deliver this rather discriminatory news to other upset and disappointed gay men than just me.

"I knew we couldn't donate blood, but marrow, too?" I asked more than a bit bewildered.

"Marrow is what makes the blood cells. You also cannot donate organs," she replied.

My mind went momentarily numb, the way it does when you just watch your computer crash and burn mid-project and you know you just lost whatever work you had toiled into it. Total shock before the realization fully sets in.

"What!?" Seriously, what year was this?

The law had been put into effect in 1985 when HIV and AIDS was still seen as a strictly homosexual disease. The ban was to prevent infected blood from accidentally making its way to recipients who needed it. It was understandable at the time.

That time being 30 years ago.

Over time the United Kingdom lifted its ban and the American Red Cross advocated the lifting of the bans in the United States and Canada where bans are currently active. In 2010, the FDA after review, recommended keeping the ban in place preventing many healthy gay donors from registering and putting lives of donor recipients at risk.

"Does it matter that I've been monogamous and having sex with only one person for the past few years? I literally have scores of blood test paperwork that says I'm perfectly healthy and STD free," I asked knowing what the answer was.

"I'm sorry, but no," responded Tiffany, despondency in her voice.

"Can I still be a private donor?"

"Yes, you'll have to get a test done and it'll be out of pocket since it'll be a private test and not through a non-profit donor registry." Since non-profits receive government funding they must follow FDA guidelines. "It'll cost you about $200, and the recipient's health insurance may cover the cost if you're a match but it's unlikely."

So there you have it. If you're gay and want to be a blood, marrow, or organ donor - the latter two involving painful surgery - you'll have to pay to donate.

 Not discriminatory at all.

-Gays have all that extra income anyways.-

The thing is is that the rule makes no sense. The reason it was put into place was to protect people from the HIV-infected blood of TEH GAYZ. However, now we know that anyone can contract HIV, and that there are more straight people then gay people who have it, so the ban essentially bans the minority.

In addition all, blood samples are screened for HIV/AIDS and Hepatitis viruses anyways so if someone who has it does donate it (should) get caught anyways.

Also, read the guidelines and you'll notice the fact that there is no rule on straight people having sex. In fact, you could have whored your way up the road and back throwing your poonanny at anyone like it was a fistful of confetti and you can still donate that day because you're straight and, therefore, totally more reliably clean.

Lesbians are also free to donate because who ever heard of a lesbian with an STD? All they do is construction work for foreplay and rent U-Hauls to achieve orgasms. At least, I assume that's what the FDA thinks. Furthermore, the ban enforces a social stigma.

The FDA has essentially legislated that gay men are inherently dirty and straight people are inherently clean. Gays are too risky a group. The majority has stereotyped into law the idea that gay men are incapable of safe sex, monogamy, and intelligent decisions. However, with our greater disposable income we're free to donate money to organ donor programs or pay up and get them done privately. The FDA and NMDP actually encourage gay people to do that on their website in lieu of marrow donation.

One or two people suggested I simply lie on my application. Ethics of life versus ethics of law. Yet, in this overly litigious state where we need Good Samaritan laws to protect would-be do-gooders I feel that deception isn't the right way to go about it.

Others have recommended protest, but who wants to be seen protesting a blood drive? No good or good press could ever come of it. It's all rather infuriating.

-Tastes like ignorance! (Actually, it tastes like sex on a spoon.)-

So, dear readers, I offer the following:

I am blood type AB+. I am in a monogamous relationship. I am 100% STD free. My marrow is brimming, virile, and strong. I am a willing and gay private donor.

If you or someone you know is in the Northern California area and needs a marrow donor please contact me. We'll see what we can do, talk to insurance companies, etc. and if it all works out and I'm a match for you then let's get to drilling. Feel free to e-mail me so we can chat.

Now I argue that part of the reason my marrow is so healthy is I live an amiable and mostly responsible lifestyle. I go to yoga every Tuesday where a tiny woman tortures me for two hours and tells me it's good for the body and soul. I walk two-miles every lunch break at work to escape the drudgery of my computer. I don't smoke at all and I hear a glass of wine a night is supposed to be good for your heart so that's nice. I eat lots of greens, plenty of produce, enough carbs to kill a racehorse, a smattering of protein if my paycheck allows; and more sweets than a doctor might practically recommend but they're all homemade so I rationalize it as okay. I eat practically zero processed foods because ew.

I also eat bone marrow whenever possible. And eating bone marrow must be good for bone marrow, right? After all, it has all those vitamins and minerals that my own marrow needs. It's not just personal justification, but also hopeful legitimacy.

If you've never had bone marrow it's as rich as a sheik, meltingly unctuous, salty meat butter. To some I assume it sounds sickening eating the inside of an animal bone, but assuming you're an omnivore then you're already eating the muscles surrounding it so how strange can it really be? Think of it as responsible eating by ensuring that the whole of the animal is used and it's death not in vein.

Bone marrow is traditionally served with points of brusque and hot rounds of toast. The marrow is generously salted to herald it's already indulgently heavy umami flavor. More often than not you'll find it served with a simple parsley salad that's perhaps been dressed with a bit of onion, capers, or champagne vinegar - all delightfully sour or bitter flavors to cut through the fatty flavors.


Roasted Marrow Bones 
Serves 1-2
a few pounds of marrow bones
1 tablespoon kosher salt
a baguette from your favorite bakery parsley
a lemon
a clove of garlic

1. Place the bones and salt in a large bowl and submerge them in ice water. This will leach the bones of their impurities. Let this sit for four hours or overnight even. Change the water out and cover with more room temperature tap water, allow to sit for another hour or until the bones are room temperature. Preheat oven to 450F.

2. Dry the bones and place in a roasting pan or dish. Roast for 20 minutes.

3. While the marrow bones roast cut up the parsley and set aside. In the last 5 minutes of roasting time slice up some of the baguette into 1/2-inch thick slices. Toast them in the toaster or quickly in the oven. Cut the garlic clove in half and rub each piece of toast with it.

4. Scoop out the marrow and spread it over the toast. Sprinkle with salt, parsley, and a squeeze of lemon juice. Eat and enjoy how good your life is.

46 comments:

  1. This is quite a doozy of a feeling for me at 8 am. Looking at the pictures my body seizes up and my mouth does this weird thing where it drops and saliva rains down on my MacBook Air to accomodate the gnawing pain in my stomach. All the while, outraged fury pumps through my blood at ridiculous guidelines. I feel perplexed. Lovely post.

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    1. Thanks crotchfairy (best name ever)!

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    2. How did I not jump on that username!?

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  2. Thank you for sharing this and I am sorry. Our world and the idiots that "govern" us make no sense sometimes. If I needed marrow, I would want yours.

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    1. Aww, thanks Alice. For donation and not eating, I hope. ;)

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  3. These photos... they are giving me goose bumpities of deliciousness. And as for the FDA, there are no words. The absurdity of this particular bit of discrimination knocks my breath away. Of course, I'm permanently banned from donating because I lived in Germany for six years starting when I was three months old. I was all toddling around Europe contracting mad cow disease.

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    1. *facepalm* Wow. Seriously? So all Europeans are diseased too? Who sits there and develops these rules at the FDA? I want the science and stats behind it all, dammit.

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    2. Yes... didn't you know that all of us Europeans run around mooing? Have you never seen "28 days later"? Of course we are all diseased!

      And well, unfortunately at least some European countries ("progessive" ones among them) have the same laws. Neither gays nor lesbians are allowed to donate blood or bone marrow. But then, we are all diseased anyways. *moo*

      It's rediculous, really. I'd rather have blood/marrow from a gay/lesbian monogamous donor than someone who has had a chance to sleep around heterosexually and might be carrying who-knows-what unknowingly.

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  4. My mother was an organ donor. My dad had to go through a long interview with someone from the donor agency, answering questions about whether she had ever been in prison, belonged to a gang, or used intravenous drugs.

    If an interview like that is conducted to determine whether a 62-year-old housewife who never did anything crazier than read a racy book can donate her organs, it makes absolutely NO sense to me that these decisions about risk factors can't be made on a case-by-case basis without regard for a potential donor's sexual preference. Especially when donors are desperately needed.

    I'm an organ donor but I'm ashamed to admit that I've never considered registering to be a marrow donor because I'm a big fat chicken. Good for you for trying.

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    1. I hear that the procedure is relatively painless these days actually. Props to you and your parental units. =)

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    2. Good for you for being willing to donate. My mother passed away from cancer in January and had several "drillings" and she wouldn't agree on the "relatively painless". The skin is numbed and they can inject with pain meds.....but it doesn't do anything. Best way is to be knocked out for it.

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  5. I had NO idea this was an issue. How ridiculous. Your Michael Bay reference almost made me choke on my coffee.

    I can never give blood because you can't if you'd had a tattoo in the last year, and I pretty much get a new one every year.

    On the U-Hauling note: when a lesbian friend of mine broke up with her girlfriend and was moving to a small apartment, she asked if I wanted her California King bed. I of course said yes. They both showed up in a U-Haul at my house and instead of running outside to help, I ran outside to take pictures of lesbians in a U-Haul together, and immediately posted it to Facebook with the caption: stereotypes are sometimes true. :)

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    1. The tattoo rule always seemed odd to me. It's not like the bone is inked. O.o

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    2. There is a risk of hepatitis with tattoos if the shop wasn't careful cleaning equipment or if it was done at home. You could start a campaign with your congress person. With all that's going on with the health care law it's a good time to lobby for changes. And this is a good change.

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  6. I'm going marrow bone hunting after work.

    The first time I donated blood it was because my employer was offering comp time for it (your reasons for donating marrow are much more altruistic) - as a woman in a monogamous and "heteronormative" relationship I still felt like a lot of the questions were overstepping and unnecessary. The stereotypes are so ugly and offensive.

    Then I passed out in the middle of the procedure and woke up to, "Don't worry, we got the whole thing while you were out!"

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    1. I donated blood throughout high school, but stopped after that due to the whole gay sex thing.

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  7. We have the same stupid laws in Australia, so stupidity spreads it would seem. The dementia exclusion is to do with consent. If you have diagnosed dementia you are unable to legally consent to anything, you can't even vote here (which is compulsory) as it can't be proven you know what you're agreeing to.

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    1. Oh, well there you are then. Thanks for that info, Nyssa. =)

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  8. The Europe thing is because they're worried that you'll introduce Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease after all the mad cow stuff. I'd like to thank the US military for sending my family to Europe in the 80s, making me totally ineligible to help people out with my bones, blood, or organs. :P However, unlike HIV/AIDS, CJD can't be found in a blood test until the prions decide to start eating holes in your brain.

    I agree that the OMG NO GAY MENZ EWWW YUCK FDA policy is totally stupid, outdated, and discriminatory for all the reasons you stated above. And I hope that should you find a match that your insurance companies manage to work everything out. With all the talk about a dearth of donors, you would think that the agencies would review their policies.

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    1. Eat your brain? O.o Sweet jeebus.

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  9. It's amazing to think that in the 21st century such archaic and discriminatory laws are still in place. A person's sexuality does not determine anything about the physical condition of his or her body for donating bone marrow! Every time I hear about discriminatory measures against homosexuality, I think back to discrimination laws based on race and religion. If the government deems racial and religious discrimination as oppressive, then why isn't discrimination based on sexuality in the same category?
    I really hope that you are able to find a way around the laws! What you are looking to do is such a good thing!

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    1. Because gays are icky. ;)
      (It's true, we so are.)

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    2. While one would think it's amazing to think these archaic and discriminatory laws are still in place, I'm - sadly - not surprised. Think about everything else the government is doing to suppress "the gay agenda." It's mind-boggling, really.

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  10. I have been seething about the blood ban for years. Thanks for making more people aware of this failed policy that only hurts, well, everybody. No other reason for keeping it in place than homophobia and the wish to further stigmatize.

    Marrow is delicious! I think I will make up a batch for my next gathering so I can read them your post as an appetizer.

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    1. Marrow is delicious. Dear god, is it ever. We have to rely on it now thatfoie is illegal in California. =P

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  11. If it makes you feel any better...
    I donated bone marrow 3 years ago. There is a less invasive technique (PBST) but it depends on the patient's surgeon regarding what technique is used. When you are identified as a match, you must agree to donate before you know the technique. I got the old drilling method, and something bad happened during the surgery. No one has figured out what happened, but I have arthritis in my hip now. Arthritis at 32 years old, and after 3 years, I've given up hope that it will ever go away. I saved a young woman's life, and I'm happy for that. But karma is a bitch, and I tell her that everyday.

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    1. Holy crap... are the doctors sure the two are related? Not just freak circumstance? O.o

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    2. No, they're not sure what happened. Before I donated, I was training for a half-marathon, and after I couldn't walk properly for nearly a year, so you do the math. Sucks, huh?!? Feel any better? :)

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  12. Ah yes, the gay ban. I actually get REALLY annoyed and pissed at the Red Cross Workers whenever I see them in here the Castro. REALLY?! I know it's not the workers fault (or even the Red Cross' fault), but we're here, in San Francisco, IN THE CASTRO. Why are you trying to recruit blood donations or raise money for an organization that is mandated to discriminate?

    Not that I don't think the Red Cross doesn't do good stuff (and I know they tried to get it lifted). But still. It drives me crazy.

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    1. Yeah, surely they must see the irony. O.o

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  13. I did not know about this law until an episode of Harry's Law a few weeks ago. At the time I put something up on facebook about it, and lo and behold the only response I got was from my mother. My mother, who is still trying to adapt to my lesbian life with my partner of nearly 6 years.

    She is doing much better with it, and felt bad for any gay males that might go through this. I am still stunned that none of my straight friends were willing to say WTF and start calling the FDA with all due speed. All I can say is I'm sorry. Sorry that you are still discriminated against more than I am, sorry that I work with a population where disease runs rampant (prison) who still have more rights than you. So very sorry for the stupidity of our government.

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    1. *HUGS* Thank you, and I am sure your mom will come around and embrace her. =)

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  14. Just awful. It makes me so angry.

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  15. Also, I wouldn't eat this if you paid me, but the pictures are nice. :)

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  16. What a tragic waste, when so many people need the donation! Bravo to you for pursuing this on your own.

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  17. It's a silly rule, but if it makes you feel any better, only one out of every 540 people who join the Be the Match Registry ever actually donate (according to their website). I joined a few years ago, and I haven't heard a thing about it since. Ironically, I only signed up for the marrow donor registry to console myself after I was rejected from a blood drive because I'd traveled to a "malaria risk zone" in Mexico too recently. That restriction actually does make some sense, because malaria parasites are hard to detect in blood (they hide out inside red blood cells). It makes me wonder what hospitals in countries with high rates of malaria do, though - presumably they don't import all their blood from elsewhere.

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    1. Some of the rules I get, but this one though...

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  18. I recently heard a NPR story on some states (NC in this case) making it 'unconstitutional' to provide health care benefits for domestic partners based on the 'illegality' of same sex marriage.
    http://www.npr.org/2012/05/27/153720969/n-c-s-new-gay-marriage-ban-leaves-some-in-limbo
    Stupid and silly. There were some good comments though.
    IMHO who cares who you marry. I think that it should be a civilly defined relationship between two people who are responsible for/to each other and any progeny of the relationship however legally acquired. That has nothing to do with what/who you do in the bedroom.

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  19. Yeah, once a government or a governmental agency passes a law or regulation, it NEVER goes away, even if rendered absurd, like this one.In my backward state there was a law put on the books in the bad 1980s when a state senator's HIV positive daughter (transfusion mediated, so politically correct) had trouble getting MDs to treat her. You won't remember this, but AIDS was the new Black Plague for awhile, no one was sure where it came from, what it was, or how it spread. Many reacted with panic, and some physicians and dentists denied care to AIDS patients. This law mandates a course on AIDS every ten years. It was probably a good thing for the first ten years. Now it is ridiculous. It is a disease like countless others, and I really don't need to know the fine details of how to treat it, as it is not a part of my specialty. But that law will be on the books until the end of time. Not because it makes sense, just because a politician did it ages ago.
    And Jacob-Cruetzfeld or any prion transmitted disease is scarier than the worst horror movie you can imagine. Luckily it is rare, we think. I wonder sometimes, given the level of functioning of our population.

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  20. Wait, you have sex with other men?? I knew you were gay, but not that you had sex with other men! How shocking! LOL. Really, a lot of the questions on these blood/marrow screenings seem a tad. . . judge-y. And as Beth noted above, even many who qualify are never called upon to donate. My boyfriend is part Pacific Islander, a woefully underrepresented group, and he has yet to be asked. But if it were up to me, I'd stand up for your right to save someone's life. It seems absurd to even have to say that!

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  21. Just a question where you get the marrow bones? Raleys?

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    1. Farmer's Market under the freeway on Sunday. =)

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  22. The ban is so ridiculous, especially since all that blood is checked anyway. They never let my sister donate blood because she doesn't meet their.minimum weight requirement, even though she's perfectly healthy.

    As far as the marrow goes, I got some bison marrow bones but they are 3-4 inches long. Can I make them as described above? I've never cooked marrow bones before and I am dying to make them, but I don't have a hacksaw or anything to make the bones a smaller size.

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    1. You can do long bones. Just use something like a chopstick to coax the marrow out. =)

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  23. You are a good heart ready to donate bone marrow and a brave heart to admit that you are gay. But, even if you are ready, the recipient has to be HLA identical to you (10/10 match or 6/6 match). There are thousands of patients who cannot find their bone marrow match in 20+ millions of donors. I expect another good article on HLA typing and its importance from you. You have a good audience who can register on Be the Match Registry or other websites. Its complicated to be a donor..I am one of it.

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