Red Cross mishandles a blood donation appointment

Red Cross logoOn Tuesday, Aug 11, I had a double red cell donation appointment at 1pm at the Northfield Ballroom. When I arrived, donors were told that some supplies had not yet arrived from St. Paul and that it would be a 45 minute delay. I had other things scheduled so I departed, irritated because they have my phone number and could have alerted me. But I’m more irritated now that no one has contacted me in the month since it happened.(continued)

I don’t know whether to fault the Rice-Le Sueur Counties Chapter of the American Red Cross or the North Central Blood Services Region or who. But this is poor ‘customer’ service. (I can understand that mistakes happen but it’s important to handle the mistakes.) And it’s particularly maddening because I’ve been making an effort the past two years or so to blog about local blood donation events.


  1. Jim Haas said:

    Mr. Wigley:

    I also had a “double red” appointment that day. I had a small rash on my arms, caused by a recurring but harmless fungus. I’ve had this condition for 20 years and it never disqualified me from donating blood. But this time, three people at the site and two people somehwere up in St. Paul spent about 45 minutes trying to decide whether to allow the donation or not. I even gave them the correct latin term for the condition. It seemed as though nobody knew what to do or even who to talk to. A decision was finally made, and I have no quarrel at all with the decision, but it sure felt like they didn’t have their stuff together that day.

    Yesterday I did get something in the mail about the Bloodmobile coming to Culver’s in Nfld. I plan to try again. I’d encourage you to do the same.

    September 14, 2009
  2. Jim,
    Your mention of an odd disqualification makes it hard not to bring up the Red Cross’ continued discrimination against gay men.

    According to their site, one should not give blood if one “[has] done something that puts you at risk for becoming infected with HIV” (regardless of actual tested HIV status). Their list of risks includes if you “are a male who has had sexual contact with another male, even once, since 1977.”

    The list does not include persons who participate in male-female anal sex (which is just as likely to transmit HIV as male-male) or unprotected sex or sex with many partners.

    September 14, 2009
  3. Griff Wigley said:

    Sean, does the Red Cross post their rationale for their policies online anywhere?

    September 15, 2009
  4. Griff,
    The guidelines are developed by the FDA and the Red Cross follows them. You can see information about the FDA recommendation here. The Red Cross site describes their blood eligibility guidelines pertaining to HIV here.

    It’s not an irrational policy — the strong majority of people infected with HIV are gay men — it just seems way too extreme. Particularly this part, from the Wikipedia article:

    Female sexual partners of MSM are deferred for one year since the last exposure.

    So, taking the policy to its extreme, if 50-something John Doe had a wild night in 1978 and hasn’t noticed he’s had AIDS for the past 30 years, his wife Jane can’t give blood unless she plans on avoiding sexual contact for 12 months. (One might also wonder why it takes a lifetime for a homosexual to discover he has HIV, but only 12 months for a heterosexual partner…)

    September 15, 2009
  5. Griff Wigley said:

    Thanks, Sean.

    FYI, I had to look up the acronym for MSM since I didn’t think the Mainstream Media was out there having sex with women. 😉

    September 16, 2009
  6. Mary Closner said:

    I made an appointment and went through a very lengthy interview process in an attempt to donate when the blood mobile was in the Econo parking lot. About an hour and a half into it, I was told I couldn’t donate because I had a tattoo that was done in MN. Apparently, if it was done in WI, it is considered “regulated.” Work done in MN is still considered “suspicious.” I have no idea what the official regulations or time limits are on tattooing, but it should have been caught on a preliminary form and I could have made time/room for a “real” donor as they were running behind that day. And, in this day and age, where SO many folks are inked, I would think they would use this question as a very preliminary screening item.

    September 16, 2009
  7. christina kavanagh said:

    As a blood collection nurse (but not with red cross) I’d like to share with Mary that the tattoo policy comes from the fact that some states require tattoo parlors to be licensed (meeting certain requirements) while other states do not. Also, where I work (in D.C.) our medical director has taken the conservative approach of a blanket 12 month deferral for all tattoos. Tattoos not performed with a sterile technique are a hepatitis B, hepatitis c and HIV risk. While I agree some deferrals seem unecessary, we’ll usually err on the side of caution if anything a donor presents with on donation day seems at all linked to a possible virus or bacterial infection ( for instance some people develop a rash with a strep infection). So please everybody, keep donating, you are so appreciated for the good that you do. I apologize to anyone for anytime we have not made you feel as special as you are. You are lifesavers.

    September 17, 2009
  8. Mary Closner said:

    Thanks for the info Christina! I would like to become a regular donor again.

    September 18, 2009
  9. Nick Gehrig said:

    Mr. Wigley – On behalf of the Red Cross, please accept our apologies for the delay at your blood drive. You certainly deserve to be notified in advance if possible or contacted later to reschedule. Thanks for pointing out the opportunity for improvement – we will be in touch with you soon.

    Great to see the discussion and sharing of information about blood donation. If I can answer any questions or be of any help to this forum, please don’t hesitate to contact me. On behalf of the hospitals and patients you help us serve, thanks for being blood donors!

    Nick Gehrig
    North Central Blood Services Region
    American Red Cross

    September 21, 2009
  10. Griff Wigley said:

    Apology accepted, Nick. And thanks much for posting publicly here. A glitch like this wouldn’t stop me from donating in the future but your attention to the problem will go a long way towards inspiring me to keep helping to publicize the local blood drives.

    September 21, 2009
  11. Jenny Kunde said:

    All Blood Donors and/or Potential Blood Donors,

    I am the American Red Cross Blood Services Donor Recruitment Representative for the Northfield Area. I too apologize for any inconveniences at this blood drive.

    I am also willing to answer any sort of questions or concerns you may have with blood donations.

    Please do not hesitate to call or email me with anything. And thank you for supporting the American Red Cross.

    Thank you,
    Jenny Kunde

    September 23, 2009
  12. Griff Wigley said:

    Thank, Jenny. I left a voicemail for you today. I also got a voicemail yesterday from Chris Hayes, American Red Cross Collections Mgr.

    September 23, 2009
  13. Adam Andreasen said:


    I just read through all these postings. I am (actually, was) a 2RBC donor for a while. Having given this type of dontation and regular whole blood donations in both California and Arizona many times I must say that the Northfield Donation Center (specifically at the ballroom) has been the worst donation site for some time. I always made sure to set an appointment before I left but was never taken even close to the scheduled time the following visit. I kept on donating there for a while because of a sense of responsibility to donors who donated to my brother. It eventually became so frustrating I started calling up anyone I could get a hold of to get this fixed.
    Following speaking with a “higher up” I had another appointment which either was canceled when I got there or they were 2 hours behind…I forget which one but that was the last straw. I gave up donating that day. It is very sad to hear this happens to others still to this day at the same location.


    September 29, 2009
  14. Jenny Kunde said:

    Hello Adam,

    My appologies!

    We do have other blood drive donation sites in Northfield that are not quite as busy at the Ballroom drive. If you give me a call or drop me an email, I would be more than happy to find a site that works better for you.

    Again, my appologies for any issues you may have had. I hope you will continue to donate blood. Our patients need it!

    Thanks, Jenny

    September 30, 2009

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