As a lifelong blood donor I am frequently amazed at the advanced technology in use for what was previously the most simple of tasks. When my father first pushed me into it, donation required a blood pressure check and maybe a half-hour of your time. Now, it takes fifteen minutes just to answer all the questions on the electronic tablet.
Back in 1971, donations were most often the result of a bloodmobile visiting an industrial facility. My employer had several a year; employees were “encouraged” to participate because departments competed against each other and you did not want to let your team down. Those were simpler times; we still had plenty of World War II vets in our ranks and they tended to agree with my old man: blood donation was the least you could do in response to good health.
Over time, donation levels have fallen. There are fewer large facilities for the blood centers to visit and those they do visit are not as accommodating as before. An employer would be foolish to risk legal hassles by “encouraging” participation. Another factor is the increased time commitment.
Not all of the time increase is due to the questionnaire. Recently I have resumed donating platelets, something I first did as part of a study in 1974. Back then the process was very time-consuming and cumbersome — both arms were immobilized — and the drugs you were given to prevent clotting made your lips and nose itch. For up to three hours you would sit there, trying not to pee your pants or asking the technician to scratch your nose. Every time the bag filled, they would have a messenger take it across the street to a waiting patient at Children’s Hospital. Today’s machine is highly computerized and does the job in half the time.
It was great to have employer support for the program. I can understand why companies say no; times are tough and employees can do charitable work on their own time. But we are all part of the larger community too. When blood or blood products are needed, we want them on the shelf — safety-checked and ready to use. If your health allows you to share that life-saving fluid, I hope you can make time in your schedule to visit the local blood center.