No Blood From You!
January 13, 2012 2:05 PM   Subscribe

Rejected for blood donation due to 7 hours in Honduras?! Can they really be that picky?

No good deed goes unpunished filter: just got back from attempting to donate blood. Truthfully answered that I went to Roatan, Honduras for 7 hours last year on a cruise and was turned down to donate. Well, actually, was turned down when I was sitting on the chair getting ready to get poked because the second technician looked at my sheet and declared Honduras to be a "bad place". Screening tech had no problem.

I get the need to have a safe blood supply, but it really seemed kind of random that the first technician who did my screening had no problem, but the second one wigged out and told me I couldn't donate. Is it really this arbitrary?
posted by Leezie to Health & Fitness (21 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
According to you're not eligible to give blood for 12 months after returning from honduras. Maybe the first screener didn't realize you'd just gotten back.
posted by cmoj at 2:07 PM on January 13, 2012

Can they really be that picky?

Yes, they can and should be that picky.
posted by unixrat at 2:09 PM on January 13, 2012 [12 favorites]

Thanks for the responses. I agree that they need to be picky, but the answers I was given at the station were not about the FDA not allowing people to donate who had been to Honduras. It was that it was a "bad place".

Still, 40 minutes out of my day off that I would have much rather spent outside.
posted by Leezie at 2:12 PM on January 13, 2012

I lived in the UK back in the 80s and still can't give blood. I don't take it personally.
posted by HeyAllie at 2:13 PM on January 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

I was once rejected because I was in Indonesia less than 12 months before, despite the fact that I spent my entire time there in a "non-malaria" part of the country according to their own website. Since the negative of an infected blood supply massively outweighs the positive of having an extra pint or two, they quite understandably tend to err on the side of caution.
posted by theodolite at 2:14 PM on January 13, 2012

If your trip to Honduras was more than 12 months ago, then the second technician made a mistake and you should complain to their supervisor. If your trip to Honduras was less than 12 months ago, then the first technician made a mistake and thankfully someone caught it. The second technician still did not express him or herself clearly.

The rules are not arbitrary. They are enforced by humans who have biases, do not express their thoughts clearly, and make mistakes.
posted by muddgirl at 2:15 PM on January 13, 2012

Unfortunately, many islands of the Caribbean are having problems with Hepatitis-C. That's the one they can't do anything about once you get it. They are trying hard to screen against it in the States, so don't take it too personally. Sounds like tech 2 could use a little better bedside manner though.
posted by halfbuckaroo at 2:15 PM on January 13, 2012

They rightfully should be picky, but you're right that their standards can also be arbitrary.

To put your rejection into perspective, consider that any man who has ever had sex with another man, even once, can never give blood in the U.S. Nor can any woman who has ever had sex with a man who has ever had sex with another man. This despite the fact that they now screen all donors for HIV.

The rules are stringent for a reason but they can certainly cross into being capricious, or even offensive.
posted by dixiecupdrinking at 2:17 PM on January 13, 2012 [4 favorites]

(Sorry, women who have had sex with men who have had sex with men are apparently only deferred for one year. /derail)
posted by dixiecupdrinking at 2:19 PM on January 13, 2012

Yes, in that sense rules are arbitrary, but in the sense of "can technicians make up rules on the spot?" the answer is they shouldn't be doing so.
posted by muddgirl at 2:20 PM on January 13, 2012

Nor can any woman who has ever had sex with a man who has ever had sex with another man.

What percentage of women who fall into this category even realize that they do?
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 2:42 PM on January 13, 2012 [2 favorites]

Sorry to continue the derail:
(Sorry, women who have had sex with men who have had sex with men are apparently only deferred for one year. /derail)

Women are deferred for one year from the last sexual encounter with such a person. So, for someone like myself, who is sexually active with a male partner who has had sex with another man in the past, I've been deferred for the past two years, and will continue to be deferred as long as I continue sleeping with him. Despite using disease-preventing prophylactics 100% of the time and regularly testing negative for all STIs.

end derail for real this time

To be fair, I was also deferred for a year after I went to Costa Rica. Many of the South and Latin American countries have problems with Hep A (in the water), malaria, etc. I think they defer people during the interview phase because it's easier and cheaper than collecting the blood and then finding out later that someone had a transmittable disease. If you think about it, the only way to prevent infections/diseases transmitted by blood transfusions is to not take the blood from an at-risk person. The FDA and by extension the Red Cross have a *very* low risk threshold.

However, the second tech should have explained more thoroughly why you were being deferred, and told you for how long you would be deferred. At my blood center, they have a big map on the wall in each room with the deferred countries labelled. It wouldn't hurt to call up and ask to speak to customer service to describe what happened. These folks are still in the medical field and better "bedside manner" should still be on their priority list.
posted by sarahnade at 2:44 PM on January 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

What percentage of women who fall into this category even realize that they do?

Pre-screening is an attempt to catch 'known issues' (although I agree that a few of their prescreen questions are biased) - as far as I know all blood is tested prior to transfusion, but those tests are not 100% either. Basically blood centers are trying to limit their risk to the best of their ability and the ability of their donors.
posted by muddgirl at 2:47 PM on January 13, 2012

I lived in Germany over twenty years ago and I still can't donate. Damn Mad Cow disease.
posted by TooFewShoes at 3:13 PM on January 13, 2012

Count me as one of the people who lived in the UK more than 20 years ago and still can't donate because of Mad Cow. I can't tell you how many times I've passed the mobile donation truck at my workplace and been enticed/admonished to "Come donate today!!!" My response is always to point a finger at myself and shout back "MAD COW!" with a dorky enthusiastic smile and a shake of my head.

And also count me as one of the people who thinks maybe the first tech just didn't hear/understand/grok that you were in Honduras within the prohibited timeframe.

I don't think either of us should take it personally. Allowing our blood creates more administrative overhead (in theory) because of increased need for screening.
posted by ImproviseOrDie at 3:35 PM on January 13, 2012 [2 favorites]

The restrictions after travel to that region of the world are because of malaria. It's strict because they don't test blood for it, according to the note at bottom of this Red Cross page.

I'm thinking that the first screener is more familiar with the context of visiting a place while on a cruise and didn't consider a few daytime hours without even an overnight stay to be "travel to Honduras."

The second screener's "bad place" reaction may have been because Roatán is sometimes specifically called out in screening guidelines, such as in the link in cmoj's comment -- presumably this is to distinguish it from the mountainous areas of mainland Honduras which do not carry malaria risk, though I wonder if this is also an extra reminder to resort guests that Roatán counts as Honduras.
posted by desuetude at 6:13 PM on January 13, 2012

The restrictions may and in many cases probably are rather arbitrary, but obviously you don't remember the 1980s, when there was widespread panic to the point that people thought you could be exposed to HIV just by giving blood. This had a huge effect on donation levels, particularly in urban areas.
posted by dhartung at 6:56 PM on January 13, 2012

I tried to give once after returning from Oaxaca. They had to call back to HQ for someone to check a map. Depending on the place you're donating (Red Cross, Local Blood Bank, Local Hospital), they'll all have slightly different rules regarding the particular geography of the exclusion zone. It's not surprising that one tech might not have known Honduras was in the exclusion zone-- mine in't even know that Oaxaca was in Mexico. Funny story, actually-- I was in Quetzaltenango over the summer, a city up in the mountains of Guatemala and therefore outside the Malaria exclusion zone. Had I stuck around there I'd be clear to donate, but I made a bike trip about 100k down to the shore where there's some Malaria floating around and am now ineligible for another year.
posted by The White Hat at 9:01 PM on January 13, 2012

I was once the operational manager for a plasma donation facility in the City of Long Beach, California. The most likely scenario here is that the person who took all of your stats somehow missed checking the box that said something like: I have not traveled to U,V,X,Y,Z countries (in which Honduras is on that list) in the past T months YES/NO There is a lot of redundancy built in. The phlebotomist or technician noticed the mistake and asked you the question to ensure you were screened completely in compliance with FDA and EU requirements. It was a mistake that was caught due to the documentation requirements of such facilities.
posted by kamikazegopher at 9:35 PM on January 13, 2012

I have also had the duty to reject a blood donor who lived in the UK even though she was a vegetarian. There is no wiggle room within the established rules for blood/blood product donation.
posted by kamikazegopher at 10:13 AM on January 14, 2012

Yep, too much travel in Europe for me and so I went from donating platelets every other Tuesday at 4:00pm to NEVER AGAIN DARKEN OUR DOORSTEP. *shrug* The statistics about vCJD and prions and stuff don't seem to support the fear, but…better safe than sorry, I guess.

Mind you, I donated twice in London during that time abroad -- and got my stubby of Guinness each time!
posted by wenestvedt at 10:44 AM on January 18, 2012

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