by Kirby Lindsay
This column originally appeared in the North Seattle Herald-Outlook, published on April 29, 2009.
The Puget Sound Blood Center (PSBC) is one of the largest volunteer organizations in the state of Washington, and they need to be. PSBC provides blood components – whole blood, platelets and plasma – to 70 hospitals and clinics in 14 counties of Western Washington, including King.
To maintain a four-day supply for this region (4,100 units) its weekly target is to register 4,400 people as volunteer whole-blood donors. Each day PSBC needs 900 people to donate to maintain our supply.
“The biggest barrier we have,” observed Michael Young, communications director for the PSBC, “[is that] some people do have a fear of needles. But once we get them through the [blood-donation] process, they see how simple it is.”
During summer, hospital trauma cases increase by 20 percent. Many of us increase our activity, and run increased risk of injury. Blood transfusions are needed for these trauma victims, but also by those suffering fatal illnesses – and non-fatal illness that could be deadly without a transfusion. Young explained that diseases, such as sickle-cell anemia and thalassemia, require monthly transfusions for the continued survival of the patients.
“The blood supply is in danger,” Young stated simply. Most summers, the PSBC supply has gone down to ‘alert mode’ – a three-day supply or less on more than one blood component – for several days.
Additionally, during summer, due to changes in activities and plans, many regular donors forget to donate.
In response, this May, PSBC will kick-off its second “Give Twice” campaign. The agency asks everyone, as they schedule their summer plans, to schedule an appointment to give blood between June 14 and August 8, and then again (when eligible 56 days later) between August and October. After the second donation, donors receive a certificate and a special cookbook.
Last year, the Give Twice campaign proved a great success. As Young admitted, “we got through the summer without a hiccup.”
Donors, including new donors, make that possible. “We couldn’t do what we do without our volunteers,” Young observed.
I give blood. For me, the donating process is easy, especially compared to other volunteer activities I could do. I simply detest picking up litter. However, if you find giving blood just plain icky, Young suggested, “Volunteer your time or financial resources.”
Give Time, Or Money
The Puget Sound Blood Center has two permanent donations sites in Seattle, at 921 Terry Avenue on First Hill and 10357 Stone Avenue North near Northgate. At both centers, volunteers staff the registration desk, and the canteen, where they distribute juice and cookies.
Additionally, PSBC maintains a busy mobile blood-drive program.
“There is a very high chance there are drives going on at several Seattle locations at the same time,” Young said.
They have staff booked to go out almost every day of every week. In addition to staff, blood mobiles and drives require non-donor volunteers.
When deferred from donating – I like to travel to exotic locales, which means I’m occasionally ineligible to give for a year due to Centers for Disease Control standards – I’ve distributed juice, cookies, water and pretzels at blood mobiles held in Fremont.
Meeting generous, good-hearted neighbors, directing PSBC staff to local shops to explore over their lunch break and being a part of something so vital makes the volunteer shift breeze by.
Additionally, PSBC can use donations of money. At their Terry & Madison location, the research department seeks advancements in transfusion medicine. Funds help research done on bleeding disorders, such as hemophilia, and a recent focus on thrombosis.
Where To Give
Traditionally, blood drives happen at churches, civic organizations and in schools. Young acknowledged the amazing volunteer donor spirit among our youths. Nearly all Seattle Public High Schools – including Cleveland, Franklin, Garfield, Roosevelt, Ingraham and Nathan Hale – hold blood drives organized by and for students.
“If we are able to get students started early, they become life-long donors,” Young explained. “During the donation process [students are] taught the importance of donating blood.”
Like any donor, students must be healthy, at least 110 pounds and 18-years-old, although parents can give consent for 16 or 17-years-olds interested in donating.
Today, many businesses also host blood drives among employees, and neighbors. PSBC can bring a blood mobile, or set up a temporary donation center in a gymnasium, auditorium, or large conference room.
The need to help in the work of Puget Sound Blood Center cannot be over-stated. Nearly every one of us will, at some point in our life, need a blood transfusion.
To schedule a blood drive, donate or volunteer, visit www.psbc.org or call 800/398-7888.
Remember, if you can’t give blood – due to health, travel or an insurmountable fear of needles – consider giving in other ways.
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©2012 Kirby Lindsay. This column is protected by intellectual property laws, including U.S. copyright laws. Reproduction, adaptation or distribution without permission is prohibited.