Hey, All -- if you've got questions about life with diabetes, then you've come to the right place! That would be our weekly diabetes advice column, Ask D'Mine, hosted by veteran type 1, diabetes author and clinical specialist Wil Dubois.

Many of us in our D-Community may wonder whether we can donate blood and organs, given that our bodies are not technically "healthy." Wil has some important insight on both types of donations... so read on.

{Got your own questions? Email us at AskDMine@diabetesmine.com}

Tom, type 2 from West Virginia, asks: Can people with diabetes give blood?

Wil@Ask D’Mine answers: Generally, yes. Unless you are a person with diabetes who also happens to have HIV or AIDS. Or leukemia. Or hemochromatosis. Or have had hepatitis since the age of 11. Or spent more than three months on the Isle of Man between Jan. 1, 1980, and Dec. 31, 1996.

Then they don’t want your blood.

They’re also not interested in your diabetic blood if you’ve been treated for syphilis or gonorrhea in the last 11 months. But it’s OK if it’s been more than a year since your last bout of the clap. There are also some restrictions on meds like blood thinners and some vaccines. Oh, and if you ever took the old “bovine” insulin made in the UK after 1980, you aren’t eligible. If you did take bovine insulin in that time window, I have no idea how you’d know where it was made. Why the ban? They’re worried about mad cow disease. (That’s also why they take a dim view of long vacations on the Isle of Man.)

Oh, and speaking of men, I guess we need to talk about MSM, which stands for “men who have had sex with men.” In the past, MSMers were not welcome, but starting in 2015 the FDA changed it’s no queers allowed policy to one that says, your blood is welcome if you haven’t had sex with another man in the last year. In blood bank speak, this is called a “one year deferral.” I think the gay community calls it a really bad dry spell.

Apparently the reason for this is that—while all donated blood is screened for HIV—the tests don’t work very well on samples where transmission is fresh, especially in the first week after contraction of the virus, so they want to be sure folks donating blood don’t have any chance to have been recently exposed to the virus.

All things being equal, the eligibility for blood donation makes interesting reading if you’re suffering a slow day at work.

But back to garden-variety vanilla white bread heterosexual diabetes: As far as the American Red Cross is concerned, “Diabetics who are well-controlled on insulin or oral medications are eligible to donate.” I have no idea why diabetics who are poorly controlled on insulin or oral medications are not eligible to donate. It probably has more to do with liability than blood quality. That said, I’ve donated blood a number of times and I don’t recall the blood bank people asking me how my blood sugar control was (although they did ask me if I slept with other men on the Isle of Man), and the Red Cross website doesn’t provide specific criteria for what sort of A1c is regarded as in control for the purposes of blood donation.

By the way, if you do have AIDS, leukemia, hemochromatosis or a time-share condo on the Isle of Man in addition to having diabetes, it doesn’t mean you can’t help out. The Red Cross will be happy to take your money, if not your blood. In their words: “Unable to give blood? You can help people facing emergencies by making a financial donation to support the Red Cross’s greatest needs.”

Allison, type 1 from Ohio, writes: Long-time reader, first-time writer. Thank you for your weekly words of wisdom! I am 28 years old and have been living with type 1 diabetes for 20 years. I know I’m pretty young to be thinking about this, but when I die, would my organs be viable to be donated? My A1cs aren’t great (between 7-8) but according to my ophthalmologist, he wouldn’t be able to tell I’m a diabetic by examining my eyes. I’m in pretty good shape otherwise. If I can’t donate my organs, would my body be useful by donating it to a university or some research group?

Wil@Ask D’Mine answers: Thank you for your kind words. I’m glad you’re a long-time reader, and even happier you’ve decided to write to me with your question.

I don’t think it’s possible to be too young to think about organ donation, and the good news is that once you’re done with your parts, they’re donate-able, diabetes or not.

As to which of your organs are suitable to be recycled, that’s actually a case-by-case, organ-by-organ determination made by the medical team who “harvests” your organs once you are done with them (i.e., dead). Interestingly, it’s your medical condition at the time of death that determines eligibility for donation, not your medical condition while you were still alive. Age is no barrier. Diabetes is no barrier. Heart disease is no barrier. And so on.

Where you die actually matters most. Needless to say, if you fall off a cliff in the mountains and your body isn’t found for weeks, your parts are no good. But apparently, even dying on the freeway ruins most organs, as the supply of oxygen needs to be maintained right up to harvesting. Accordingly, folks who have the decency to die in the intensive care unit of a hospital make the best organ donors.

So what organs are “re-usable"? The topmost useful organs are your heart, lungs, liver, pancreas (of dubious value coming from you—more on that in a minute), kidneys, small intestines, cornea, skin, tendons, bone and heart valves. Naturally, if you were a raging alcoholic with a damaged liver, that organ would be of little use to anyone else, but your heart or kidneys could be fine. Likewise with diabetes, different organs will be in different condition in different people. Rest assured that most of us have something that someone else can use.

Apparently well over 100,000 (barely) living people are waiting for transplants while not enough dead people choose to donate before passing on. This has led to something called, “living donation,” where people who are alive and well choose to give up a spare organ. Naturally, this is usually a kidney as it’s the only organ in your body that is truly a spare part (sure, you have two eyes, but you really need them both). It’s also possible to give up part of a liver, and more rarely a chunk of lung, intestine, or pancreas!

Most commonly, living donations are given by family members, although I know one lady who gave up one of her kidneys in what’s called a non-directed donation. She just did it because it seemed to her to be the right thing to do. It went to someone who needed it that she never met. But back to families, if your sister needed one of your kidneys to stay alive, you’d give her one, right? Uh… Wrong. Because you’re not eligible. People with diabetes are barred from living donations. It’s viewed as too risky for us. But rest assured, once you are dead, your parts have value.

In most states, you become an organ donor simply by noting it on your driver’s license. But you can, and should, register at the Department of Health and Human Services organ donor registry. Your home state of Ohio also has a website about organ donation, complete with some great pictures of both recipients and donator survivors here. All the experts agree that it’s also a good idea to let your family know that this is your decision.

Now, we talked about how most of your parts could be recycled to keep someone else alive. But not your pancreas. Yeah. They don’t want that. It’s not considered “medically suitable” for transplant. But that doesn’t mean it’s not useful.

Quite the contrary.

I need to introduce you to the Network for Pancreatic Organ Donors with Diabetes, or nPOD (not to be confused with OmniPod). They want your pancreas to study it and try to figure out WTF went wrong with it. They’re also keen to have donors under age 30 with type 1 diabetes-related autoantibodies who didn’t have diabetes yet when they died. Well, not keen in a morbid way. In their words, “Gifts from this group of donors will help scientists study the autoimmune process at the very earliest stages of beta-cell destruction.”

So when you pass on, you can do both of the things you asked about. You can give your usable organs to a living person and you can advance research into type 1 diabetes by donating your pancreas to nPod.

BTW, in case you're wondering who pays for cutting up your cadaver? Not your estate or your family. Harvesting costs are covered by the medical insurance of the recipient in the case of usable parts, and nPod picks up the tab for your faulty pancreas.

I think you are never too young to make these arrangements, and I think it’s the right thing to do. I wish more people did. And according to the United Network for Organ Sharing, all major religions approve of organ donation as an act of charity.

But I hope you are still using all the organs you’re willing to share for decades, and decades, and decades to come.

“This is not a medical advice column. We are PWDs freely and openly sharing the wisdom of our collected experiences — our been-there-done-that knowledge from the trenches. But we are not MDs, RNs, NPs, PAs, CDEs, or partridges in pear trees. Bottom line: we are only a small part of your total prescription. You still need the professional advice, treatment, and care of a licensed medical professional.”