Donating blood is crucial to healthcare

Published 11:08pm Thursday, January 3, 2013

With a new year comes a wealth of new opportunities — one of which could be saving someone’s life. January is blood donor awareness month, meaning now is the time blood banks and blood donation centers are thanking donors who have donated blood in the past year as well as encouraging people who have not yet donated.

According to Melinda Hinds, district community development coordinator for LifeSouth Community Blood Center, donating blood is easy and only takes about 30 to 45 minutes.

“Any time you can save someone’s life in less than an hour — that’s pretty phenomenal,” Hinds said. “It’s such a good feeling. We have people who donate for the first time and the first thing they say is, ‘If I had known it was this easy, I would have been donating blood a long time before now.’”

Vaughan Regional Medical Center transfuses more than 2500 units of blood/blood products per year and has their blood donations from the American Red Cross.

“Vaughan Regional works closely with the Red Cross to coordinate several blood drives each year.  In fact, we have one coming up on Feb. 5,” said Merrill South, director of community relations for Vaughan. “When donations are low, our on–site blood inventory is on strict allocation.”

South said when that occurs elective surgeries may have to be rescheduled, emphasizing the importance of Dallas County residents donating blood.

“Because of our rural location, it sometimes takes as long as three hours to get specialty products from the Red Cross. That’s why it’s so important to give when one has the opportunity,” she said.

Hinds agreed that donating is important and said the main reason why many people choose not to donate is simply a fear of the unknown.

“They don’t really know that much about it and they don’t want to put themselves in that situation,” Hinds explained.

To ease the fear and hesitation of those who have never donated blood, Hinds described the process of donating. Donors need to bring photo identification, and then they will be registered, have a short interview and physical examination.

“The interview and physical process only takes a few minutes. We’ll ask them some questions about their travel — if they’ve been out of the country, medications that they’re on, how they’re feeling that day and if they’ve donated blood recently — just some things about them personally,” Hinds said. “They go from answering the questions to a mini physical and we check their blood pressure, their temperature and iron level, which means we prick their finger. It’s just to make sure that everything’s where it should be and the levels are right and that they are OK to donate.”

The actual blood donation only takes 8 to 10 minutes, Hinds said.

“[Afterwards] we make sure that they get some good snacks and we give them a recognition item, thanking them for taking the time out of the day to donate and send them on their way, and let them know when their next donation date will be,” she added.

Donors can give whole blood — red blood cells — every 56 days, averaging out to about every eight weeks, and Hinds said people with O negative blood type — the universal donors — are always needed to donate.

“When somebody comes in and donates whole blood, people don’t realize it can be used in so many ways,” Hinds said.  “There are just so many good reasons why you should want to help someone. There are a lot of people out there who are waiting on that next donation.”


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