Out for blood

I was reminded today that type O blood is considered universal, and therefore, always needed. It also made me realize that not only have I been doing my part by donating O+ blood, I also gave birth to three O+ people, furthering the supply.

Oh yeah. That’s me, helping humanity.

I had a visit this afternoon from Dave Kelly, the donor recruitment representative for the Red Cross. Based in St. Paul, Dave handles nine counties in rural Minnesota, including Nobles, Murray and Cottonwood. He works with the volunteers who organize blood drives in communities, helping them find sites and providing promotional materials.

He has been making the rounds for the last few days to remind people how important it is to give blood.

“The demand is always there,” he said.
There are two times a year that the Red Cross struggles to meet blood demand — during the summer and during the winter holidays. The Red Cross does a lot of blood drives at high schools and colleges, which cuts into the summer supply. And let’s face it, during the summer and the holidays people get very busy.

When I was younger, I was not allowed to donate blood or plasma. My blood pressure was too low. Luckily, I got fatter and live unhealthy enough that my blood pressure went up to an acceptable level, so I can now give blood.

Dave told me that people can choose to either give blood or give a double red cell donation. Giving blood takes about 45 minutes, he said, and doing the cell donation is about an hour.

For the cell donation, they remove two pints of blood, separate out the red cells, then pump the plasma and saline back into the donor. Cool.

The shelf life of a pint of whole blood is about 42 days, but Dave didn’t really know what the shelf life of the red cell donation is. Not because he is uneducated, but because the red cells are generally inside a patient within 48 hours of being cleared by a lab.

People used to have to go to blood centers to donate the red cells, but now the machines are part of the regular mobile blood drive equipment.

I learned something else kind of cool. Did you know you can have a memorial blood drive in someone’s honor? I was unaware of this. Apparently you can call up the Red Cross and they will help you organize a drive in memory of a loved one.

Anyone looking for more information can go to www.givebloodgivelife.org.

There are a few blood drives coming up in April in Worthington. From 2 to 7 p.m. April 12 the Red Cross will be at the Northland Mall, and at Minnesota West April 13. They will also be at the Worthington Christian Church from 1 to 7 p.m. April 29 and 8 a.m. to noon April 30.

As a first responder, I have seen plenty of car crashes and other types of accidents and know how important blood supply is. So if you’re healthy enough to do it, give blood.