First a banner goes up on the town hall in Preuilly. It says blood will be collected on Saturday morning. Then the electronic message board shows that you can give blood at the Salle des Fêtes between 9am and 12pm on Saturday 18 August.
Prompted to go after a blog post by TasteFrance I put it in my diary. I needn't have worried though. At 8.30am on the appointed Saturday morning a Red Cross van cruises up and down Preuilly's streets with a tannoy, urging the inhabitants to pop in and give blood.
When I get to the Salle des Fêtes just a few minutes after 9am the blood team are finishing breakfast. Half a dozen donors are already there. I am given a bottle of water and a four page questionnaire to fill out. I haven't got through more than a few questions before an administrator calls me over. She needs to register my details (name, address, etc) on the computer, and her colleague needs to do a prick test to see that my haemoglobin count is high enough. It has to be over 12 I'm told, otherwise I'm probably anaemic. Mine is 14, so that's OK.
I go back to filling out the form. There is a question about whether I had lived in the UK for a year or more between 1980 and 1996. This is to eliminate the risk of those who might have been exposed to Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (otherwise known as Mad Cow Disease, which leads to a terrible human disease called Variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease). I was in the UK in 1995, but only for 3 months and we didn't move there until 1997. However, many British people now living in France cannot give blood in France because of this.
There were the usual questions about sexual activity and drug use and lots more questions about where I'd been in the last twelve months, even in transit. Also a question about Hepititis B and Tetanus vaccinations, and one asking if I planned to do anything sporty immediately after giving blood. I said I planned to go swimming if I felt OK. Finally I finished answering all the questions and was called in for an interview with a doctor.
She went through the form with me, clarifying some of the answers and entering it all on the computer. She asked me what I'd eaten for breakfast (muesli with milk and a cup of coffee which got a nod of approval). Swimming afterwards was deemed foolish though. I couldn't remember the date of my tetanus booster, but it was in the last year so we took a near enough is good enough approach with the date. The fact that I had been in China and Australia was not a problem, but I got quizzed about where in Italy I had been. I explained that I had stepped into northern Italy across the border in the Alps for less than an hour three weeks earlier. No matter, it was enough to halt the whole process. I couldn't give blood that day because there is currently a virus in Lombardy and around Venice that they don't want to be passing on. There needs to be at least a month between visiting those parts of Italy and giving blood. The doctor said that she was rejecting a lot of people for that sort of reason because it was the holidays and people were travelling a lot.
Two nurses on the left, two doctors on the right and a donor in the background.
I was invited to partake of a biscuit and some cordial nevertheless, thanked and sent on my way. So I went swimming. I think the blood team come to Preuilly three times a year, so I will keep an eye out for them and be ready next time.