By Samantha Bambino
Imagine being able to save three lives in a matter of minutes. Impossible as this may seem, all it takes is a visit to an American Red Cross blood drive. The organization will be accepting blood donations in Bristol on April 29 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at St. Mark’s School, 1024 Radcliffe St., and in Bensalem on April 27 from 2–7 p.m. at Best Western, 3499 Street Road.
Nationally, the Red Cross must collect 14,000 units of blood cells and platelets every day to meet the needs of patients. One unit is taken from each person at the time of donation, which means at least 14,000 people are needed daily to keep up with the demand. In Northeast Pennsylvania alone, 1,000 units must be donated each day. According to Alana Mauger, American Red Cross external communications manager, there is no day off.
“Volunteers and blood donations are the only way to help people in need. Blood can’t be manufactured,” she said. “Every two seconds, someone needs blood in the U.S.”
Red blood cells must be used within 42 days of donation, so there is a constant need for donors to keep up with the demand. Donors can choose between a regular whole blood donation, or a Power Red donation, which maximizes impact and can only be done with blood types O, A negative and B negative. A Power Red donation retrieves a concentrated dose of blood, doubling the amount donors can give. Afterward, the plasma and platelets are returned to the donor. Whole blood can be donated every 56 days and up to six times a year, while a Power Red donation can be made every 112 days and up to three times a year.
Many people like the idea of helping those in need, but are squeamish when it comes to needles. Mauger assures those who are hesitant that all Red Cross employees are well-trained and receive extensive practice beforehand. It also helps that cookies, water and juice await donors at the end of the process.
“Everyone is there to put the donors at ease,” she said.
Unfortunately, some people are simply not able to donate for various reasons, and a health diagnosis is done upon arrival to make sure of any restrictions. The most common include recent travel to certain countries or low iron levels, which they can work on increasing for future donations.
Each state also has its own restrictions. For example, if someone has gotten a tattoo within the past year in Pennsylvania, they are not eligible to donate. This restriction is non-existent in New Jersey, where all tattoo parlors are required to be certified. Another interesting point about Pennsylvania, according to Mauger, is teens can donate at the age of 16 with a parent’s consent, and at 17 without it.
The American Red Cross hosts frequent local blood drives, and if you’re not able to attend these spring dates, don’t fear. The free Red Cross Blood App allows users to find upcoming blood drives, schedule appointments, track their number of blood donations and, in some instances, follow the journey of their donation through delivery to the patient.
If you plan to attend, Mauger encourages donors to eat and drink lots of water, especially afterward, and get plenty of rest the night before.
“It’s mostly about the fluids,” she said. ••
Find and register for a local blood drive at redcrossblood.org/give/drive/driveSearch.jsp.