Thursday, September 14, 2006

A minor technology rant

I've given blood regularly for a fairly long time. Here's what used to happen: every about 56 days, a human being from the Red Cross would call and say, "Hi Bardiac, you're eligible to give blood again, can we help you schedule an appointment?"

And I'd say, "sure!" and then we'd figure out the time and date, and I'd show up, and voila.

That system was archaic, though. People talking to people! Yes, and probably costly. Phone calls and such. So they changed to a computerized system.

Now here's what happens. I gave blood in mid July. The next time I can give blood, using the 56 day rule thing, is mid-September, right?

Since giving blood, I've received three emails reminding me to give blood (in late July and August), a letter (July), and then a postcard (early August), and another letter (August) (oh, and two other letters to alert me to an addressing error in a letter thanking me for my last donation, and explaining the error).

Of course, reminding me multiple times isn't going to make my next donation any faster. How about sending me ONE email that says when my last donation was and when I can donate again? ONE! About a week ahead of when I can make a new donation?

Being me, (and having switched to a new academic year calendar) I didn't remember the date when I last gave blood. So I tried to call the phone number on the card. Except it's not actually a phone NUMBER on the card, it's mostly words, 1-800-GIVE-LIFE. (And yes, if you're up for giving blood, go ahead and call!)

And have I mentioned that I use reading glasses? Actually calling means that I can't just look at the BIG numbers on my cell phone (my office phone is a dial phone, so I avoid using it to call big organizations that I'm sure will have touch tone systems and put me on hold for HOURS if I don't use one, or worse). Nope, I have to put on my reading glasses, because phone numbers are OLD technology but the letters on my phone are miniscule. (Please, feel free to give BOTH the number and the words! The additional ink cost is more than worth it!)

(How much of a Luddite am I? I still remember my grandmother's phone number from the sixties, complete with the exchange word to remind you of the first two numbers, and I loved that exchange! What poetry in a phone number! It's the only phone number I learned as an exchange, and it was an old number she'd had for a long time.)

I managed to dial, four times over the course of the day (well, after the second one I realized that I could just use the redial feature, because I'm just that inept with my cell phone), and got a busy signal each time.

So, I went to the website ( and tried to sign in. What's my password again? I have no clue. (Happily, the system let me in through a name, rank, serial number sort of system.)

AND once I'm in, the system tells me when I last gave blood (which is how I know it was mid-July). But it doesn't tell me when I'm next eligible, so I did some stupid calendar math. (Could they make it 60 days? 45? Something easy to remember? No doubt the 56 days is so exact that even a round 50 days wouldn't work!) I'd love to see a little note on there giving the date when you're next eligible to give. (And if it's complex because of different types of donation, then the note can be a bit longer and more specific.)

Then I tried to sign up to donate in a couple of weeks. But for some reason, I'm no longer signed in. I typed the sign in info again, and wait. And wait.

In the process, I've spent four or five times as long working on making an appointment as I used to when they'd just call.

I'm all for giving blood. I'm very lucky to be in good health and eligible and all. And there's a chance my blood might actually help someone, or up to three someones. (And I don't underestimate this; my father needed blood donations for heart surgery, and one of my friends has gotten literally gallons of blood during a recent illness. Donated blood makes a positive difference in people's lives.)

But spending half an hour just trying to figure out the timing and setting up the appointment is irritating.

Was it so very bad to have someone call me? Really?


The day has come today. They've streamlined the questionaire process a lot (though they were fined recently for not screening well enough somewhere along the line, so maybe that's a separate problem?), so I won't have to go through a long questionaire about where I lived in the Peace Corps and assure them it's not on the old list of places you weren't supposed to have lived if you wanted to give blood.

And then there's always the excitement of the questions: will my iron be high enough? (go go women's multi-vitamin!) Will my blood pressure reflect the stress of the semester, or the fact that I'm not really awake yet? Will they choose the good old vein marked by a line of scars and risk gunking the needle with scar tissue as they go in, or will someone get adventurous and try the other arm? What kind of cookies do they have?

Yes, it's like leaving you with one of those old television serial cliff-hangers: Tune in next time, same Bardiac-URL! Same Bardiac-blogosphere!


  1. At my blood-letting place, they do the email newsletter thing once-per-month but they also do the email reminder right after you get through the 56-day window.

    But the absolute kicker is that they also call...using LITTLE OLD LADIES with sweet voices that cause this ex-Catholic to be constantly riddled with guilt that I can't keep my iron at a sane level (even with iron pills).


  2. I'm sad that I can't give blood anymore. I'm on too many meds.

  3. Aaagh...I hate it when you get a phone word/phrase instead of a phone number.

  4. Anonymous7:09 PM

    I like giving blood although I have the same problem y'all do...middle-aged, small women don't have as much iron as 19-yr old men! Go figure. I finally had to ask them to stop calling me, though, after about the 4th time I went in and got my finger stuck and couldn't give blood. I'd like to try pheresis some time, too, after I have eaten lots of iron pills.

    56 days is of course 8 weeks. Just stick it in the PDA while you're waiting with your cookies.

  5. Thanks, all :)

    The only time my iron was too low was when I decided it would be smart to take "special weight loss multivitamins" rather than "women's with extra iron and stuff" multivitamins. I've since read the labels more carefully and realized that the extra stuff aimed at women in the women's multivitamins (iron, folic acid, vitamin D, calcium) don't get into the weight loss ones.

    I'm a luddite. No PDA here. I actually WRITE in a little calendar book thing! With a pencil or pen! (not a stylus!) But the 8 week thing is absolutly true, and I should be able to do that with my paper calendar just fine! Thanks!