Larry L. Miller didn’t think his question was a deal breaker. How could it be, considering the amount of blood he has donated over the years to the American Red Cross?
During the last six decades, the Akron resident has given 271 units of blood.
That’s equivalent to 33.9 gallons, which is certainly nothing to sneeze at.
Or maybe it is. That would depend on the reason you’re sneezing.
Miller, 77, encountered a health problem last year that may or may not have ruled him out as a future donor. He has been trying to figure out whether the medications he has been taking since his minor stroke would preclude him from donating.
He says that after an odd, prolonged conversation in October with someone at the Akron branch of the Red Cross, he had no answer. The man promised to push the question to someone higher on the food chain and call back.
He tried again by phone awhile later, and again failed to get an answer.
A month later, Miller tried again, this time writing a letter to the regional Red Cross office in Cleveland, naming his medications and saying, “I am perfectly willing to continue donating blood if allowed, but my suspicion is that one or more of these will sideline me for the duration.
“If someone could determine my eligibility or lack thereof and let me know, I would appreciate it.”
He mailed that letter in November. He’s still waiting for a response.
“No one ever had the courtesy to give me a reply,” he says, adding sarcastically, “Maybe I hadn’t donated enough blood to warrant one.”
Because Miller can’t get answers, he hasn’t donated for about 10 months.
Obviously, anyone who has given nearly 34 gallons of blood is more than a casual donor. He rarely waited any longer than the eight-week requirement between sessions.
Miller is not seeking to glorify his largesse. To the contrary: He didn’t want me to use his name until I told him I wouldn’t write a column without it.
But he is proud of his record. So proud that, a while back, he decided — being retired and all — that he would take the time to try to document his donations — date, location and amount — using sources like his old daybooks.
Miller certainly made the rounds: His log includes stops at numerous churches, hospitals and Red Cross offices, as well as the Cuyahoga Falls Natatorium, the Falls Sheraton, Hollywood Video (remember them?), Summit Racing, the Green YMCA, the Ellet Community Center, the Sam’s Club near Chapel Hill Mall … on and on.
He was able to trace back to 1987. Many of his earlier donations took place in Portage County. Hoping to fill in the gaps, he sent an email early last month asking whether Portage records from the late 1950s and 1960s still exist.
You guessed it. That inquiry also failed to draw one word of response, pushing Miller’s annoyance level to new heights.
“Having worked in advertising and public relations,” he says, “I thought, ‘That’s a hell of a way to run a railroad.’?”
Had Miller asked me about his eligibility, I would have directed him to Google, because the Red Cross offers a website with detailed information about which drugs and conditions preclude donating. You can find it here: rdcrss.org/2r4ryWT.
But not everyone is computer-savvy, especially older adults. Heck, more than a third of Americans age 65 or older don’t even have internet access. So you’d think the Red Cross would at least respond to these kinds of inquiries.
Christy Peters, spokesperson for the Red Cross Northern Ohio Blood Services Region, swiftly offered her apologies — and vowed to address the lousy communications.
“We are very sorry to learn that Mr. Larry Miller’s several attempts to obtain information about his blood donor record and current donation eligibility from Red Cross offices in Ohio had gone unanswered for some time,” she said in a written statement.
“As soon as this was brought to our attention … we contacted Mr. Miller to apologize personally to him. We are currently working to answer his questions and provide the information he has requested.
“We are also … looking into why Mr. Miller did not receive a timely response to his inquiries. As we follow up with the employees and/or volunteers who may have been involved, we will review our procedures related to donor communication and do everything we can to ensure this does not happen again.”
If those efforts succeed, we can credit Miller with yet another contribution to the public welfare.
Bob Dyer can be reached at 330-996-3580 or email@example.com. He also is on Facebook at www.facebook.com/bob.dyer.31