Giving blood

For regular donors, the Blood Bank will send you a letter a couple of weeks before their mobile branch visits your area. Then if they haven’t heard from you, they ring you up in the week before. I never seem to find the time to ring them before they ring me.

The problem is by then they’re inevitably booked out. So they’ll ring me up and I’ll say Yeah I’d like to book in, and I’ll nominate a few times, and none of them are available. In fact sometimes they ring up and tell me straight up that virtually no times at all (convenient or inconvenient for me) are available. Which makes it a little pointless in ringing me, to be honest.

It’s frustrating when I know, and they know, they need the blood. But if they don’t have the capacity to take it when I can give it, what can you do?

The Southbank centre is open long hours, but the location a long way out of the way. The Bourke Street centre is in a much more convenient spot, but the opening hours aren’t very good. (If I were running it, I’d do the long hours at the more convenient location. But maybe that’s just me.)

I’m on the wait-list for the local collection next week… but if that doesn’t work, I’ll try and get in at Bourke Street in the next few weeks.

By Daniel Bowen

Transport blogger / campaigner and spokesperson for the Public Transport Users Association / professional geek.
Bunurong land, Melbourne, Australia.
Opinions on this blog are all mine.

18 replies on “Giving blood”

The blood bank is absolutely hopeless. Always asking questions they’ve asked before, slow processing, it’s a real put-off.

They’ll come and collect you from work if you go as a work group (chauffeur driven, yay!), but it’s a two hour chunk out of your day.

What’s the rule in regard to the sexual preference of donors these days? Last I heard gay men still weren’t allowed to donate, while heterosexual men were fine (though perhaps I’m wrong). I would only bother attempting to donate if I knew the same rules applied to everyone, regardless of sexual preference.

Meanwhile, in a tenuously related tangent, have any of you watched “True Blood”. Alan Ball’s latest effort (the creator of Six Feet Under) and simply the best show on… uh… TV right now. Expect it to be on very late and sporadically here, if at all.

I’ve always been mystified why they don’t have an email alert type of system for when they’re going to be in your area.

Josh: The processing speed seems okay at the local (mobile) branch when I have an appointment. Probably takes an hour all-up.

Nathan: Male to male sex rules people out (along with a number of other types of activity).

Alexio: Yeah they have their schedule online… you’d think they could organise an RSS feed and/or email system for it rather than sending out paper letters.

I think they don’t keep great records, actually. You cannot donate while pregnant, yet in all three of my pregnancies, I was contacted at least 3 times to ask me to donate. The first time, fair cop – but when I ring up and explain the situation and I get a letter again 2 months later, it seems a bit unnecessary. I mean, if I tell you in July that I’m 2 months pregnant at that time, what do you expect will have materially changed by September?

Pfft, given that some men identify as hetero yet engage in male to male sex that point is rather moot.

Many rural blood banks were closed – and are still being closed – replaced with these mobile banks which are inefficient and next to useless as they have limited capacity and capability yet the demand for donations is still high.

So if I’m a gay guy in a long term monogamous relationship, technically I can’t donate blood because my answer to the question “had male to male sex” is yes, even though I’m at absolutely no risk of any infections etc. Yet a straight guy who has had multiple female partners is free to do so. Granted the risk factor is lower, but there is still a chance. In my opinion the question should somehow relate to multiple partners regardless of gender/sexual preference. How they choose what the number is and over what period of time is obviously a bone of contention. How about “If you’ve had more than one partner in 12 months you are automatically disqualified from donating”. Which seems the same to me as the current rules, except fair for everyone.

Sorry to hijack your comments Daniel but I just find the Red Cross an annoying and hypocritical organisation. What I find even more annoying is the “spruikers” that you get on the street trying to get people to donate blood. I’ve had to tell them “you don’t want my blood, honey” on more than one occasion.

Children, It’s not that hard, make a commitment to donate on a regular basis and then meet that commitment. I have been donating regularly over the past 25 years and have little complaint with the way the service works. They are doing the best job they can given the resources they have.

Southbank isn’t too far away from anywhere in the city, make an appointment, keep it and make your next appointment at the time of donating, simple. Two hours every two months – if your employer can’t handle that …

Daniel, you live South of the city (and I assume you still work in town), make an appointment for 8:00am and donate on your way to work, you’ll be at your desk by 9:30.

Unfortunately due to the propensity of modern man to sue at the drop of a hat, organisations now a days have to cover their posterior, hence the need for donors to re-state their medical and personal history each donation.

The blood bank is not discriminatory against any type of individual, there are certain groups in the community (unfortunately) that are at a higher risk of carrying blood-borne diseases. The blood bank needs to be aware of these individuals so that they can screen and direct their donations appropriately.

Not everybody has an e-mail account, not every organisation is as geeky as some of this blog’s readership.

Give them a break, they are doing a fantastic job providing a service that is saving hundreds of lives a month. There are other organisations out there more deserving of negative criticism than the Blood Bank.

I’ve heard that my blood is not in demand here (same as in Hong Kong) because I lived in the UK (and ate meat) in the years running up to the outbrake of ‘mad cows’ CJD.

Eating meat during those times had no effect on me whatsoever and anyway, I’ve mooooved on.

Daniel, glad to hear you are doing your bit re blood donations, but to be honest your argument falls over after your first sentence! Here’s two simple solutions:
1. Book your appointment as soon as you get the reminder letter – if you’re so determined to do your bit for the community surely you can spare 5 minutes to make a phone call…?
2. Book your next appointment at the same time you’re donating at your current appointment. Then you don’t have to worry about letters and phone calls at all. In fact you will likely get a call a week or so in advance to CONFIRM your appointment.

It’s not that hard surely, especially if you have a ‘usual’ time you prefer to donate (eg. Friday morning before work, Wednesday at lunchtime, etc.). Simply book your usual slot three months in advance and mark it in your diary/calendar/Outlook reminder, whatever.

And there’s no harm if something comes up in the meantime you have to reschedule. For example, I had a cold when my last appointment was due and couldn’t donate, so I rang a couple of days beforehand to let them know I was unwell, and rescheduled no problem.

Rohan, fair point, yes, I should just call. And Nigel is right — they do do a very good job.

But I guess the point I’m making is that if the need for blood is so desperate, it should be as easy as possible to donate. There seem to be hurdles to it — small ones admittedly, but hurdles nonetheless. For the sake of a few more staff/a little more capacity, it could be easier for them to get my (and almost certainly many others’) donations.

They’d actually be more successful with me if they scrapped sending me letters, and just phoned or emailed me 2-3 weeks before the mobile branch arrives. Yes, I should respond to the letters… but I don’t. That’s my life — I’m regularly drowning in written correspondence, and I often don’t respond to it quickly… but that’s the subject for a later blog post.

Nothing wrong with implementing an email instead of snailmail service – would save them money in the long run.

I believe you used to be able to donate blood at any hospital, but it’s not that easy anymore. That said, I have been slack lately… have to organize an appointment. Bourke St is way more convenient than Southbank for most CBD workers, and Parkville/Biomed cluster. Surprised Bourke St closes at 4pm on a Friday… when it doesn’t really matter if you’re a bit late home, etc. Maybe the donors are over 0.05?!

When I was in university some of the other students were motivated to donate blood because they could get “wasted” on much less alcohol that evening being a pint low.

Went for the first time a month ago. Thought I’d be ABrh+. You know, just the Beartles the Royal Family and me. A+ is still okay. Never got that on an exam.

Couldn’t believe how easy it was. Intend to become a regular.

They won’t take my blood (tainted by drugs created in the ovaries of guinea pigs is just not good enough for them), so here’s my three cheers for you… “Hip-hip” … “Hip-hip” … “Hip-hip” … Hooray and thanks for persistance and commitment to donate your blood, Daniel! :o)

I’m a nurse who administers blood, platelets, plasma, cryoprecipitate, albumin and other blood products every day. Please let me thank all the donors, because without you, people really would die. There are frightening shortages of platelets and albumin at the moment, mainly because many donors have been sick with flu/colds or on holidays and haven’t been able to donate.

I have HUGE issues with the refusal of the Red Cross to accept donations from gay men. The last time I brought it up (along with the argument that men in long-term monogamous relationships are a far lower risk than a lot of young straight men and women) and I was told that there were moves afoot to alter that question, which would enable gay men with low-risk lifestyles to donate.

Whatever you think of the Red Cross, please keep donating if you’re able (or allowed). My patients always thank their donors when I arrive in a room bearing a bag of the good stuff.

They perform a vital service, but administratively they leave a LOT to be desired. I have donated as often as health has permitted for more than 25 years now, so I think I’ve earned the right to criticise them now and again.

The administrative stuff-ups I’ve experienced from them would fill a book. To take just one example: I got a letter from them saying my blood was particularly valuable to them because I’ve never been overseas, and would I consider apheresis (donating plasma) instead of whole blood. Sure I would, said I. So I show up for my apheresis appointment, only to be told I’m unsuitable for it because my veins are too small. (Veins need to be big enough for the red blood cells to be pumped back in after the plasma is separated; if they’re too thin, they’ll clog up.) Oh, I said. Is there anything I can do about that? Would drinking lots of water help? No, said the Blood Bank; you’re stuck with the veins you were born with. You can’t do anything that will make them change their size. Fair enough, said I, and went back to donating whole blood. Then a few months later, I received another letter from the Blood Bank, telling me my blood is really valuable because I’ve never been overseas, and would I consider apheresis, blah blah blah? What do they think – that I’ve grown some brand new veins in the interim?

This is just one example of many. And they wonder why I sound a bit cross when I phone them.

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