American Red Cross says blood donations save lives

Published 12:00 am Sunday, February 1, 2004

It sounds like a small thing but a quick pin prick and a dozen minutes may make the difference between life and death for someone in need of blood.

Because hospitals have no other source of blood, donations are vital - even more so now because supplies are critically low, according to the Red Cross.

Earlier this month, the Greater Alleghenies Chapter of the American Red Cross, which serves 33 counties across the Tri-State, reported the worst blood shortage in 20 years.

Email newsletter signup

The situation has not gotten much better.

Red Cross officials had hoped January's recognition of National Blood Donor Month would help the shortage but Mother Nature has not cooperated.

"Collections have started improving a little bit but with the cold weather and snow, people have not wanted to get out," said Cheryl Gergely, supervisor of communications for the Red Cross chapter. "So, collections have started dropping again."

The Red Cross provides nearly half of the nation's blood supply. Ideally, the Red Cross will maintain a five-day supply of each of the eight blood types.

Currently, the Red Cross is at or below a two-day supply for all types.

"When it is that low, it just takes one day of low collections to bottom out," Gergely said.

Two blood drives in Lawrence County last week -

one at Ohio University Southern and another at Central Christian Church - fell significantly short of expectations.

The Red Cross had hoped to receive a combined 75 pints of blood from both but only got 37 pints. At OUS, the organization received only 11 pints instead of the 40 it had hoped for.

Several students rolled up their sleeves to do their part, however.

For senior education major Isaac Wood, donating blood is nothing new. The Coal Grove native has given blood at least seven times before.

"I usually donate every time they come here," he said. "They need it now more than ever."

Wood said he thinks donating "is a must," especially for people like him with O-positive because it can be used by anyone with positive blood types.

Blood is classified into four categories - O, A, B, AB. Each category has positive and negative types.

O-negative is the most needed. It is considered universal because it can be transfused to anyone. O-positive is the most common type of blood with approximately 38 percent of population possessing this type. AB-negative is the rarest type because less than 1 percent of the population has it.

Donated blood is separated into three parts: red blood cells, platelets and plasma. Red blood cells are given to people who lose blood in accidents, during surgery or those who are anemic. Platelets are given to individuals who cannot make their own, such as cancer patients. Plasma is needed by people suffering from chock and clotting deficiencies.

William Crabtree, an accounting major from Ironton, has donated a few times before and agreed that it is a relatively painless process, considering the benefit.

"Apparently this is pretty important," he said. "They told me that for every person that donates, they can save three lives."

Gergely emphasized that donors have nothing to be afraid of and that a small amount of time can make all the difference in the world.

The total process only takes about an hour and 15 minutes from the time a donor walks in the doors to the time they leave, she said.

After being given some reading materials, donors meet with a professional to go over their blood donor record or medical history. Nurses take their temperature, blood pressure and pulse to determine if someone is a viable donor.

Once the blood withdraw begins, it is usually over within 12 minutes. The donor is then escorted to a refreshment area where they can take fluids and sugar. Most donors are ready to leave after 15 minutes, Gergely said.

"I have been to a lot of high school blood drives with first-time donors," she said. "From talking to them after they gave, many would say 'That was what I was afraid of? That was no big deal at all.'"

To donate blood, individuals must be in good health, be at least 17 years old and weigh at least 105 pounds.

All donors should bring a Red Cross donor card or other form of government-issued picture identification. Student IDs, corporate IDs and credit cards with photos will also be accepted.

Donors can also present two of the following: work ID, social security card, original or certified copy of a birth certificate, personal check book, bank card, library card, insurance card, pay stub or other forms of identification.

Three more blood drives will be hosted this week. The Red Cross will be at Portsmouth High School from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday and at Wheelersburg High School from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Thursday.

Another drive will be hosted from 11:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday at the Ashland Central (Ky.) Fire Station.

Anyone who would like to schedule an appointment to give blood or find other local blood drives may contact the American Red Cross at 1-800-GIVE-LIFE.