March 12th, 2004


Vampires! Leeches! Or, I Gave Blood Today

I gave blood today. I was a little concerned with the sloppiness of the procedure. Things that concerned me about their procedures today include:
  • When, in response to the "have you travelled outside of the country" question, I said that I went to Grand Bahama Island in the Bahamas last June, it took the interviewer a long time to reconcile that it was still OK for me to give blood. Their book didn't have "Grand Bahama Island" listed in the "Bahamas" section and she didn't seem willling to believe that Freeport, which was listed in their book, was a city on the island. She also wasn't happy with my saying that I went there in the middle of June -- she wanted the exact dates. Fortunately, I was able to look it up on my PalmPilot.
  • There were a couple of interview questions on the back of the sheet that the interviewer had to administer orally. I didn't have a problem with that -- it's been that way the last several times I donated blood. What I did have a problem with was that in one case, the interviewer didn't ask me the complete question. For the question in particular, that made a huge difference and I'm glad I had read the questions beforehand so I knew how to properly answer it. In this case, the question was whether or not I had eaten at a particuar restaurant during a particular time period. They were asking that question because of a hepatitis problem they had at that restaurant last year. As it turns out, I ate at that restaurant in January (several months after the time period in question) when I went to Asheville for the Derek Trucks Band show. So my answer to the question as written was "no," but since the interviewer didn't include the time period when she asked me the question, my answer to her should have been "yes." Instead of answering yes, I clarified that I hadn't eaten there in the time period that the question was asking about.
  • The interviewer didn't give me sufficient privacy to choose my "use my blood" vs. "do not use my blood" sticker -- she came back in the room almost immediately and I hadn't even finished putting the stickers on the form. That doesn't bother me, 'cause I always choose the "use my blood" sticker, but it completely circumvents what they're trying to do with their obfuscated bar code stickers and what-not.
  • After my donation, the technician who drew my blood gave me my post-donation packet and the post-donation packet for one of the other doners. I didn't notice it at first, but caught the mistake while I was in the "recovery" area. The technician looked at the numbers on the paper and told me which one belonged to the other doner, but who knows if she guessed(?) correclty or not. Off all the things that went wrong today, this is the one that concerns me most.
All in all, it was probably the least professional experience I've had donating blood.

Those were all things that the Red Cross could have easily done correctly if they simply did a better job of following their own procedures. The whole experience seemed somewhat sloppy and unprofessional to me. In addition to those things that I completely think were completely avoidable and completely the fault of Red Cross, there was one other thing that made today's visit less than stellar. They had to poke both my arms again. I was able to bleed a pint out of my left arm without a problem once the technician found my vein, which only took a minute or so of digging for it. Once I filled the bag, however, my arm didn't seem to want to bleed for the tubes that they have to fill as well. They eventually gave up on my left arm and headed over to my right arm, where I was able to fill all the tubes except one without a problem. It took a little coaxing, but I filled that tube as well. The technician said that it was probably a problem with the tube. *shrug* I don't mind the needles, so it really wasn't a big deal. It would have been nicer if they could have gotten it all from one arm. I'll just have to be extra careful for the next few weeks and make sure I don't find myself in a situation where I need an IV, since neither of my arms are probably good for IVs right now.

What do you call the people that actually draw the blood during a donation? I've been referring to them as technicians. If that's not the appropriate term, I apologize and would love to be corrected. [Edit: Thanks to pistos for teaching me that the correct term is phlebotomist. I probably should have known that.]

All that said, I would not classify today's experience at the Red Cross as negative. Giving blood is important and if you're eligible to donate, I beg you to call your local Red Cross chapter today -- right now -- and set up a donation appointment. Becoming a regular donor entails an hour or two of inconvenience every couple of months and enduring whatever your level of discomfort is for the donation process. On the up side, it saves lives. It's well worth the trouble.