I've done it so often I know the system. You sign in and read a binder of information. Once you are taken to a room, you get your temperature, pulse, blood pressure and hemoglobin checked. Then you answer a set of computerized questions, sign some papers, and move to the donation area for the Main Event. The phlebotomist cleans the skin on the inside of your elbow, gives you a ball to squeeze, then inserts the needle. After you've given up your pint of blood the needle is removed, a small bandage is placed on the needle site, and a dressing is wrapped around your arm. They ask you to sit in the refreshment area for 10-15 minutes, then you can leave.
I decided that donating blood today would be a nice kickoff to the Labor Day weekend. When I arrived there was only one other woman ahead of me, so I only had to wait a few minutes. The Mini-Physical results were good, so it was time for the questions. They're all about your health history and places you've traveled. I was zipping through them, when I came upon this one:
HAVE YOU TRAVELED OUTSIDE THE UNITED STATES IN THE LAST YEAR?
Well, I had gone on a Caribbean cruise back in the spring. Did that count? Turns out it did. My affirmative answer to that question led to a longer series of questions about where I'd gone. Two of the ports I'd visited (Grand Cayman and Falmouth, Jamaica) didn't pose a problem, but my time in Cozumel and the ruins at Tulum did. The Red Cross considers that an area where malaria is found, and if you've been there you have to wait 12 months before you can donate blood again.
My name is now on a "Do Not Donate" list until March 30, 2013. I'm sad I won't be able to give blood, but there's a side benefit--I won't be getting calls from Red Cross phone solicitors reminding me it's time to donate.