A Lifesaving Gift Of Blood For The Holidays

Blood donations tend to drop this time of year, so Washingtonians are being encouraged to stop by a blood center or blood drive over the holidays, to ensure that blood centers can continue to supply clinics and hospitals.

According to David Leitch, director of donor and volunteer resources, Puget Sound Blood Center, it takes 900 people a day giving blood just to meet the Seattle area needs. Typically there are 15 or 20 blood drives a day at schools and businesses, but that number lags during the busy end-of-year holidays - while the demand for blood does not.

"It's important to remind people that blood is needed every day," Leitch said, "and the holidays are a very difficult time for us to keep that active donor base coming into both our centers and blood drives. So, if you can spare just one hour over the next two weeks to donate blood or platelets, that would be great."

The American Red Cross estimates that every two seconds someone in the U.S. needs a blood donation, or about one in ten people admitted to a hospital.giving blood

In eastern Washington, Elizabeth Giles, marketing and communications officer, Inland Northwest Blood Center, said 200 donors a day are needed to supply 35 hospitals in the region. Any blood type will be put to good use, but she explained that donors who are "O-negative" have a gift that's in special demand.

"As the universal blood donor, if there's a trauma or an accident or there's not time to cross-type, that's the blood the doctors reach for first," Giles said. "So having a safe and steady supply of O-negative on the shelf is really important for our area hospitals."

At the Inland Northwest Blood Center, donors this month are being entered into a drawing as "Holiday Heroes," to win passes to a local ski resort or indoor water park.

Although nearly 40 percent of people in the U.S. are eligible to give blood, less than 10 percent actually do. It takes about one hour, and Leitch described the process. "You fill out a brief health history questionnaire. They do a little, small screening or health check, where they check your pulse and the amount of iron in your blood. And then, you donate blood itself - and that only usually takes about seven to 12 minutes to do. Then, after you donate, you hang out in our canteen and have some juice and cookies for about 10 minutes," Leitch explained.

In Washington, donors must be at least 16 years of age, and those under age 18 need a parent's permission. Donors must also be in good health and weigh more than 110 pounds.

Puget Sound Blood Center 

December 23, 2013/Chris Thomas, Washington News Service