View from the choir

I am a Catholic layperson and Secular Franciscan with a sense of humor. After years in the back pew watching, I have moved into the choir. It's nice to see faces instead of the backs of heads. But I still maintain God has a sense of humor - and that we are created in God's image.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Wounded wings

Mountain stream Adirondacks. I sat on some boulders, just listening to the water. Peaceful.
Yesterday was not so peaceful. I went to give blood.
Things started off okay - except for the technician talking to another about "sticking" me. She got the needle in and the blood flowing - then it stopped. A more experienced technician came over and started to adjust the needle in my arm. It hurt. I made that known. She did it again, and again, hurting each time. Finally she suggested that I not give that day. I agreed.
But when the original technician took the partly filled bag off, she put it on the chair near my legs, and it leaked. On the chair. On the floor. On my pants. And she had taken her gloves off, so blood got on her hands, too.
There was lots of furious wiping of blood. I then mentioned it got on my pants. She said she was going to clean that. She did, with an alcohol swipe.
That did not get all the blood out, and I also then smelled of alcohol.
Meanwhile, no sorry, nothing.
I went home with my left arm bandaged and unusable for anything heavy, and my right arm still tender from the pulled muscle I got getting my dad out of his wheelchair a week and a half ago.
That's twice now, Red Cross. I used to give regularly - two gallons in the 1970s and 80s. I had to stop when I made a church trip to Haiti, which put me on a list for several years, and I got out of the habit.
In the 90s I went once, a similar painful experience (though no spilled blood). Maybe as I've aged my veins have gotten smaller, I don't know.
What I do know is that I won't give again for a long time - if ever.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

On behalf of the entire Red Cross I would like to apologize for your experience. If you could please contact me at we would like to have the opportunity to learn from this experience and issue a more proper apology.


Greg Haines
American Red Cross Blood Services

5:25 PM  
Blogger Lee Strong said...

Greg - first, thanks for stopping by and caring to comment.

Here's a more detailed description of the incident that I later posted elsewhere.

A couple of weeks ago I was contacted by a well-known and justly–praised agency noted for helping people during disasters, but even more so for collecting blood.

They said they were contacting former donors who had not given in a while.

I fit that bill.

In the 1970s and 1980s I donated on a regular basis, eventually giving two gallons (even though I hate needles).

But then I went on a church trip to Haiti, a country on the restricted list for blood donors at that time. I was not able to give for several years, and got out of the habit.

When was finally eligible to give again in the 1990s, I went in. The technician was not able to tap a vein. She poked me a couple of times, and then had to call over a more experienced poker, who also tried a couple of times. No luck, lots of discomfort, so we gave up.

I was turned off by the experience, so I did not go back. Did I mention that I hate needles anyway?

Then came that call two weeks ago.

I decided it was time to try again, so I arranged to go in Tuesday of this week.

I arrived, read all the literature, got asked all the embarrassing questions, and then sat in the waiting area.

One technician was sitting at a desk just a few feet away from me. A second person came in, and asked the first, “Are you going to stick him?”

“Stick him?” Said in earshot of the stickee? (Did I mention that I don’t like needles?)

The technician said she was indeed going to “stick him.”

“Stick him” again!

(How about another phrase like “take his donation” or “help him donate”?)

She took me over to a chair (more like a couch) and asked which arm I preferred. I said my left. I’d injured my right a couple of weeks before lifting my dad out of his wheelchair (pulled muscle?) and it was still sore.

She cleaned the left arm, searched for a vein. It took several attempts apparently, but found a likely target.

Then she “stuck me.”

The blood started flowing. Then it stopped. She tried to adjust the needle. No luck. At that point she called over a fellow worker – perhaps a more experienced sticker – who moved the needle about. Ouch. Ouch again. I noted that it was hurting. She suggested that maybe it was not a good day to give. I agreed.

The first sticker disconnected the bag and put it on the chair next to my leg. She then unstuck me.

Suddenly, she muttered something. A fellow worker came over. The bag was leaking. Blood on the chair. Blood on the floor. Blood on my pants.

The two began quickly wiping the floor and the chair, and bagging the leaky bag. Neither said anything to me. I moved my leg away from the spot. After few moments, I mentioned that there was blood on my pants. She said she knew and would wipe it. After the floor and char were done, she used a wipe to clean some of the blood off my pants. I asked if there was alcohol in the wipe, and she said yes. I touched the wet spot and smelled my fingers.

Yep. Alcohol.

At no point did she say sorry, or even try to carry on a conversation with me, other than to give short answers to my questions. Finally she told me I could go.

I got up and went into the post sticking room where there were all sorts of treats awaiting. A cheerful fellow offered me a variety of drinks and foods, as well as a free tee-shirt and a coupon for coffee. He then asked if I’d like to sign up to give again in a couple of months. I demurred. As I sat there, I checked my pants. Still stained. I knew I had to get home to wash them quickly before the blood set.

I did manage to get the stains out.

And now I sit here with two sore arms.

It seems weird that in my youth I was able to give regularly without problems. Maybe as I’ve aged my veins have gotten hard to find and “stick.”

Whatever the case, this is one “stickee” who will think twice about ever attempting to give again.

As for a proper apology, the fact that you cared enough to respond is sufficient. But I think some reminders for the staff are in order.

Be careful how you talk when donors are about. "Stick him" may be okay in informal chit chat with fellow staff, but not within earshot of donors.

Talk to the donor (and not to fellow staff members, as my technician was doing). Don't just give directions, engage the person in conversation. It might help to put him or her at ease, and is more respectful. At least it would make the person feel as if he or she was there and was more than just a vein to stick!

When there is a problem, immediatley tell the donor. In my case, something like, "Oh, sorry, I'll clean that up immediately. I just need to get the floor cleaned first before someone slips," would have helped.

- Lee

6:27 AM  

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