Giving Blood or Just Picky With My Words?


On Thursday I gave blood to the American Red Cross (ARC). Ordinarily this tidbit of information would not be important to broadcast or post on a blog. Except I have not donated blood to the ARC in a few years. Here’s the reason why.


Years ago I was in the habit of donating blood to the ARC in their Fountain Valley donation center.


If you have never given blood before, here is what is generally required to donate.


You must provide answers to federally mandated questions, which include the following;

(1) Places where you have traveled outside the US (“Have you ever been in Poland since 1996?”)

(2) What diseases and medication you have had (“Have you ever had Hepatitis C?”, “Have you ever taken Human Growth Hormones (HGH)?”)

(3) Some sexual practices (“If you are a male, have you ever had sex with another male since 1977?”, “If you are a female, have you ever had sex with a male who has had sex with another males since 1977?”)

(4) And of course, the usual questions about weight, height, recent surgeries, illicit drugs, and so on.


Just to make sure you give the right answers they ask you the same questions twice.


They then take a blood sample from a prick on your finger to check for iron levels. You get to watch your blood floating down in a tube. Not exactly an exciting thing to witness, but all this necessary before you can give blood.


Then you just wait until they call you to lie down on a bed or a semi-comfortable table so they can stick a needle in your good arm, and if you are not squeamish, you can watch your bag fill up. The duration of this last step is 15-20 minutes.


Then when it is finally over, they are willing to help you walk to another table to rest.


Your compensation for a blood donation includes cookies, crackers, juice, water, and the occasional tee-shirt. And the good feeling you have when you help someone you have never met.


The point is that it is harder to give blood than money, at least to the ARC and the federal guidelines they follow.


So years ago I was scheduled to give blood the ARC. It was a sunny Tuesday afternoon. I drove home from work, showered, and then drove straight to the facility so I wouldn’t be late.


I was filling out some paperwork at the ARC on a clipboard. While I writing down my information, I was approached by a nurse who asked me, “Why are you barefooted”?


I smiled and replied, “It’s not illegal and I prefer to be barefooted”’.


“It is dangerous for you.”


“Just how is it dangerous for me? Are you worried I might stub my toe?”


“You might step on some needles”


“I never saw a discarded needle on the floor and I’ve been giving for more than 20 years.


“You might step in blood.”


“I’ve never seen blood on the floor. And I don’t have a cut on my foot”.


I tried to go back writing my answers on the clipboard but the nurse was persistent.


“Some people don’t like to see bare feet here!” She was almost yelling.


“Some people don’t like to see Hispanics or Blacks. Are you suggesting …”


“You are being picky with your words”


“Using words is the only way I know to communicate with you. I know the definitions of the words I use. Do you?”


“You still have to wear shoes here”


“Madam, I’ve been in hospitals barefooted before. I walked with a friend around the nurses’ table following a surgery. And I was wearing considerably less clothing than I have on right now. Are you saying your facility is cleaner than a hospital or that it has higher standards?”


“You have to wear shoes here!” Ok, now she was yelling.


“Is this your rule, the facility’s rule, or the ARC rule? Because I’ve never seen this rule in your ads, website, or anywhere else. May I talk with your supervisor?”


“She is not here”


“Then who is running this place? Never mind, call district HQ. Let them decide.”


She finally did call someone. But she never told me who it was or what his or her name was. Nor did she give me the phone.


Whether she either made up the conversation or actually just relayed a messaged, I do not know. But I had had enough.


I gave her the clipboard and walked out.


Most people, if I was hand them cash or check, and told them it was a donation or a grant, would not care if I was barefooted. And the majority of them would probably not care if I was totally nude. Money, the green stuff, has value in this society.


The American Red Cross considers blood donation as something more valuable than a financial donation. They are always asking for donations in the red department.


I don’t mind doing the paperwork or answering some questions that you might never ask a lover. I don’t mind missing the three to four days of exercise after the donation, in fact, I think I welcome that part. And I do appreciate the fine food and drink after walking back from the bed.


But the needle still hurts, even if it is just a little bit. And I do have to make time in my day to make the donation you say you perpetually need.


So why put another obstacle to my donations? Or is this a case of acute podi-phobia?


You guys missed several years of my donations due to a silly, non-stated, misguided, and perhaps even made-up, rule. 


I am coming back. Will you read these words?



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