July 13, 2007
Seeing Red at the Blood Drive
Today didn't begin all that auspiciously. Got up, worked a bit, mowed the front lawn, and ran out with my son to buy school supplies. I don't think of myself as a terribly superstitious person, but I always get a little hinky on Friday the 13th. No particular reason. Just because. When I got back from my errand, I received a rather unwelcome email from my major freelance client. The weekly guarantee of work I've been enjoying for the past couple months was gone. That was a blow, but not the end of the world. I looked on the bright side and thought it would give me a chance to catch up on listing new Making it Big clothes in my eBay store.
At one this afternoon, I dropped my son off at the park and rec center up the road for a Mad Science class. I saw that Blood Source, the local blood bank, was having a blood drive at the rec center. It's probably been 20 years or more since I've given blood. When I was young, I was a regular blood donor - but it's just one of those things that doesn't get done unless you make it a priority.
As four o'clock approached and it was time to go pick Morgan up, I thought about my options. Given my sudden drop in income, I thought could come back home and log in more inventory for eBay or else write a couple of articles for another client. Then I thought that, instead, what I should do is give blood. It wasn't an entirely altruistic decision, although I'm aware that the need for blood donations is great. I made the decision because, when I'm feeling down, doing some kind of "good deed" makes me feel better. Plus, I thought it would set a good example for my son and get him interested in becoming a blood donor when he got older.
I picked Morgan up from class and walked over to the rec center's ballroom, where the blood drive was taking place. The volunteers who greeted us were warm and friendly, and they expressed concern over the possibility of not having a blood drive T-shirt that would fit me. Although they were a bit flustered, I assured them that I wasn't there for the T-shirt. They had me fill out a card, then directed me to the ballroom, where there were several people waiting to have their information entered into the Blood Source database.
I waited for five or ten minutes, and then it was my turn to give the staff member my information and show him my driver's license. He entered all of my information into his notebook computer, printed out a long form with all of my information, and directed me to another waiting area, where I was to complete the questionnaire and wait to be called.
The questions on a blood donor questionnaire are extremely personal and very involved, but I certainly understood the need to keep the blood supply safe, and so happily answered questions ranging from prescription drugs to my sexual habits, from my travels out of the U.S. to my tattooing habits. I waited another 20 minutes or so until it was my turn to meet with another staff member. She went over my questionnaire, asked for clarification on a couple of questions, took my pulse and temperature, and drew a tiny blood sample to ensure I had enough iron in my blood. She then directed me to a reclining seat and told me that someone would take my blood donation.
By this time I'd been there close to 45 minutes, and had had interactions with three volunteers and two staff members. My son was patiently waiting at the kid's table - not too much of a burden since he got to sample the ice cream and cookies that Blood Source provides to blood donors after their donations.
Although the reclining seat was a bit elevated off the ground and I couldn't figure out how to get the armrests to adjust outward, I did manage to perch myself on the chair. The woman who was to draw my blood came up to me and told me that she thought my weight exceeded the weight limit of the chair, and that she'd have to talk to her supervisor. In the meantime, she told me to wait while she finished up another person's blood donation.
I sat there feeling a little bit stunned for another five minutes or so. When she returned and apologized for having to bring this topic up, I assured her that I knew I was a fat woman, and had had more than one experience with equipment weight limits. I said that the seat actually felt quite sturdy, and that I was confident that it wouldn't be a problem.
She then proceeded to take my blood pressure, but was clearly put off by having to get a larger blood pressure cuff and - god forbid - having to adjust the armrest so my arm was positioned conveniently for her. I suggested that, if the seat was problematic, I could go grab one of the banquet chairs that were set up for those waiting to have their information entered into the computer and those waiting to have their questionnaires reviewed. She said that it simply wouldn't work because she needed the armrest. I suggested that I pull the chair up to the armrest so she could use it. She just walked away.
Momentarily, the supervisor appeared at my other side and said that she couldn't allow me to sit there because I was over the recommended weight limit for the chair. Because I couldn't sit there, she couldn't allow me to donate blood. She did say, however, that she would be happy to give me a list of their "satellite offices," so that I could go there and donate blood - but not today, because they were closed.
To say I was angry would be an understatement. I was seeing red. First, I was enraged because their blood drive wasn't accessible to supersize people who wanted to donate. Second, I was mad because they were so inflexible when there was such an obvious workaround available. Third, it ticked me off that, throughout my encounters with five Blood Source volunteers and staff members over a 45-minute period of time, not one of them mentioned that drawing blood might be problematic. Fourth, I was angry because I felt, once again, like a second-class citizen because of my size. And, fifth, I was mad because I believed Blood Source when they said they needed donations. Now, I can only conclude that they only need donations that are convenient to collect.
It makes me mad that I wanted to help and that I was turned away because of my size. It makes me sad to think that, somewhere in Sacramento County (or wherever the blood ends up going), someone may soon be in desperate need of a lifesaving pint of blood that won't be there - simply because Blood Source only accepts donors who fit into their chairs.
Update 7/23/07: I spoke to a Blood Source representative, who said that they have had several meetings and discussions about having chairs manufactured with weight limits of 500 pounds, which they can use for mobile blood drives. She also indicated that they are developing procedures to ensure that my experience isn't repeated. I give them enormous credit for taking action and hope that they can quickly implement a workable solution.
Posted by conradb212 at July 13, 2007 04:24 PM