Students save lives through BC’s winter blood drive

On January 9 and 10, Bloodworks will be hosting a blood drive on campus. Bloodworks, formerly known as the Puget Sound Blood Center, is a non-profit organization that supplies blood to over 90 hospitals in the northwest region, and they rely on the donations of volunteers to help save lives and ensure that blood supplies are readily available for emergencies.

Giving blood is easy, and can save the life of someone else. Most blood can be used for transfusions within 24 hours, and is directly applied to lifesaving procedures. Carrie Hansen, a phlebotomist with Bloodworks, knows how important it is to keep the region’s blood supplies high through donation. When asked about the importance of donations, she said, “It’s kind of interesting to see just how much [blood] is used for regular transfusions because there are people who need these transfusions on a weekly basis. There are a lot of cancer patients, trauma patients, there might be an unexpected large use of blood that we obviously can’t foresee in the future.” Taking the time to donate blood has a direct impact on the lives of people who might not survive otherwise.

However, once blood is taken, it has an expiration date. Whole blood can be stored for 42 days before it can no longer be used. To put this into perspective, most kinds of milk only have a shelf life of 21 days. In the time it takes to go through two gallons of milk, the entire region’s blood supply would need to be replaced. To continue to ensure that the region’s hospitals have an adequate supply of blood reserves, Bloodworks estimates that it needs 800 people to donate blood a day.

The blood drive coming to our school will be taking whole blood donations. It is typically the fastest type of donation, due to the simplicity of the procedure and lack of special equipment. Other donations types exist, but because they require special equipment, only whole blood donations will be available on campus.

Other donation types are called apheresis, or partial-blood, donations. Apheresis donations include platelet, plasma, or double red cell donations. They can take up to two hours to complete, and have other special requirements and equipment that must be available before the donation can be performed. However, they are extremely useful to the blood banks and have benefits to both the donor and blood supply that whole blood donations do not. There are several physical Bloodworks locations that would be more than happy to assist anyone who wishes to use an alternative donation method.

A whole blood donation should take less than an hour to accomplish. This time includes a health and travel questionnaire, a small health screening by a trained professional, and the drawing of blood itself. Most donations do take much less than an hour, but everyone’s donation experience is different. Ms. Hansen states that, before a donation, “The most important thing is making sure you are well-hydrated,” and also to eat “a good healthy meal at least an hour before coming in.” Until you know how your body will react to the process, it is best to ensure your body is ready for the experience and to have the time set aside to ensure a comfortable donation.

Bloodworks cares about providing a safe experience for each donor, so there are a few important prerequisites for giving blood. First and foremost, any donor must be 18 years or older and weigh at least 110 pounds. However, Bellevue College does have a large population of Running Start students that may wish to donate as well. For donors under the age of 18, Bloodworks has a permission slip on their website that can be signed by a parent or guardian to allow for a blood donation. There are stricter weight requirements for minors as well. Male minimum weight is 114 pounds, and female minimum weight is 125 pounds.

Proper identification is required. Bloodworks donor members may obtain a donor card which is sufficient for donation identification purposes. For those who have not donated before or do not have a donor card, identification must be a photo ID that has a clear photo and the donor’s first and last name. A Bellevue College student ID or a driver’s license will work in this regard.

The health and travel questionnaire is a series of yes or no questions that are important for preserving the safety of the patients who will be receiving the donation. A few examples of disqualifying events are receiving a tattoo or piercing from an unlicensed professional within the last year, HIV/AIDS or having a partner with HIV/AIDS, and pregnancy. Certain medications can also prevent donation, as can travel to certain locations outside of the USA and Canada. For those with extensive travel histories, Ms. Hansen suggests showing up with a list of locations traveled to, as it will greatly assist in the screening process. It is important to note that male to male sexual contact within the last year is disqualifying as per FDA regulations, and Bloodworks must comply with the decision to maintain its ability to collect donations.

The health screening is relatively non-intrusive. It will be done in a private room by a trained specialist and consists of a few more health-related questions, pulse checks, and a visual examination of the inner arms to ensure the best possible experience for each donor. A single small prick of the finger is required to test for iron deficiencies, and then the donation can begin.

Once the donation is complete, there is a snack bar available as well. It is important to rest for a few minutes after donating, as the body takes time to adjust to the loss of blood. The snacks and drinks available will help with replacing the resources that the body just used as fast as possible, and are an important part of recovery.

Donating blood is one of the most important ways that anyone can have a positive impact on another person’s life. It takes less than an hour to give a pint of blood and save someone’s life. This week is your chance to be a hero.