My Failed Attempts to Donate Blood in Mexico


When I lived in the United States, I donated blood several times a year. I have O negative blood which makes me a universal donor. That means that my blood can be given to anyone, regardless of their blood type. It is especially useful in emergency situations when there isn’t time to determine the blood type of the patient. For that reason, the blood bank back home would call me whenever I was eligible to donate again and beg me to come in.

The other day, I came across a post on Facebook from the blood bank at the General Hospital in Playa del Carmen asking for people to donate. The blood bank is about 30 minutes from the condo; however, I decided to stop by and donate while we were in Playa on other business.

First Attempt

We arrived around 11 a.m. and made contact with the nurse at the desk of the blood bank. She advised us that I had arrived too late to donate blood and that I would have to return another day. She said that they only accept blood donations between the hours of 7:00 A.M – 9:30 A.M.

The nurse was very friendly and she carefully explained all of the requirements to donate. As she spoke, my gaze kept turning to the group of employees sitting around talking. I caught myself wondering what they did each day after 9:30 A.M.

I have donated blood for over 25 years and I always thought that the health and age requirements were fairly universal. Although some of the requirements in Mexico were familiar, there were a few that took me by surprise:

  • No one over age 65
  • You must fast for 4-8 hours prior to donating, and not have eaten any greasy foods before that
  • No alcohol for two days prior
  • No one with high cholesterol

We took our list of requirements home with us and prepared to return bright and early the following Tuesday .

Second Attempt

We returned to the blood bank at 8:10 A.M. and the waiting area was full of people.

The same nurse from the other day was seated behind the desk. She greeted us with a big smile and proceeded to ask me the list of questions to determine if I was eligible to donate.

One thing that took me by surprise is that she asked very detailed questions about everything that I ate the day prior. This was to make sure that nothing was too greasy. In the U.S., they never bothered to ask me about my diet prior to giving blood.

I passed my initial screening and she told me to have a seat until my name was called. After about 20 minutes of waiting, Linda went up to the desk and asked the nurse how long we could expect to wait. The nurse replied that it would be about another hour and a half to two hours.

Although I have learned to be a much more patient person since moving to Mexico, I have not yet reached the level required to wait two hours to donate blood. We advised the nurse that we were unable to wait that long and left.

Let’s Wrap This Up

When I looked online to see if there were any other blood banks in the area – and there are not – I came across a recent newspaper article about the blood bank in Playa. The article said that the blood bank was trying to boost donations through an Internet campaign and by visiting universities. It also pointed out that O negative blood was difficult to find.

I joked with Linda that all of the people with O negative blood must be either too impatient or too busy to wait two hours to donate.

Seriously though, this incident did get me thinking that this area could benefit greatly from blood mobiles. For those of you who are looking for a cause to keep you busy in retirement, this would be a very worthy one.

By the way, I have not given up on donating blood. I plan to be at the hospital before the crack of dawn sometime next week, to be the first in line. Even if I am unsuccessful – yet again, I will at least be able to say I tried.

15 Comments on "My Failed Attempts to Donate Blood in Mexico"

  1. Lori Quakenbush | August 24, 2016 at 9:58 am | Reply

    I commend you trying, and it does seem like they are making it difficult to do this good deed.

  2. I find all the questions quite interesting. I wonder what it means. Especially, since they do not ask these questions in the states.

  3. Thanks for the article Paul. Ever time that I think of something about moving, 3 days later you have an article about it! I was just thinking of blood donations on Sunday. Get out of my head!

  4. In Chapala, Jalisco there is a Red Cross blood bank it’s run by Americans. I don’t know how it operates, but maybe you can contact them.

  5. I have always planned to give blood in Mx especially when the American red cross didn’t want my blood because I have been to outlying areas of mexico, now I won’t have to waste valuable vacation time!

  6. I’ve heard there is also a long list of requirements like you cannot have any tattoos or piercings, a long list of even mild illnesses for the past few months, and sexual abstinence requirements. I was a regular donor in the US but have never met the Mexican requirements.

    • Yes, no tattoos or piercings in the last 12 months, can’t have had various sexual partners, and no sign of fever or illness.

  7. Maybe they have all these requirements because they don’t have the means of testing for all this before they administer the blood to the patient? In the US & Canada, maybe they test for all these things after the blood is donated and before it is stored and the patient gets it. I wonder how many people die because of not enough donated blood? Seems strange to me.

  8. Great story. Not sure the pre-screening process is as effective as a post-screening process for all of the bad things they are looking for but very admirable you are giving it another go!

  9. Very interesting. I used to give blood all the time to the Carter Blood Bank here in Fort Worth. However, in 2003 I had a mild heart attack and was told that I could not donate blood any longer even though I do not take any medications that would affect the donation. I’ve arranged for the blood mobile to be present at a couple of public functions I assisted with and though talking with the staff I was advised they would not take my blood but still with no real explanation. How unfortunate, as I found that giving blood was rewarding but would also boost my energy level significantly for a week or two after the donation.

  10. And we can guess what would happen if you pointed out the elephant in the room right?

  11. Incompetence and fear of HIV which is ramp ent in PlayA

  12. I have a difficult question for you.. 🙂 I lived in Europe for many years and that makes me (unfortunately) not eligible to donate blood in the US, because they are scared about foreigners being possible “mad cow” carriers… which means that I won’t EVER be able to donate in America (unless they come up with a way to test it – which they won’t – and I find it ridiculous… but there’s nothing I can do).

    And the question is: do you know if Mexico has the same rules? If as a foreigner (living currently in US), I would be able to donate at least in that country?

    • I remember those questions when I donated in the U.S., but they were not asked here in Mexico — so you should be able to donate here.

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