By Brendan Maher
Every two seconds a person in the United States is in need of lifesaving blood, and since there is no known method to manufacture blood or platelets, all blood used by hospitals must come from the donation of volunteers.
This matter is further complicated by the fact that less than 38 percent of the population is eligible to give blood. Additionally, once donated, blood has a short shelf life. Red blood cells must be used within 42 days of extraction, and platelets, which are blood cells that aid in clotting, must be used within a mere five days. This makes long term stockpiling of blood for future use impossible. These factors ensure that blood is always in high demand.
Saint Vincent College, as well the wider community of Latrobe, often participates in providing supply for this lifesaving chain of blood donations. If you’ve spent much time on campus, you have likely seen promotional posters urging students and faculty to donate, usually at a drive located in the Student Activities Center.
The most recent drive was held on Tuesday, Feb. 2. During this drive there was a 70-minute wait for walk-in donations, and, by noon, there were no available slots to register for a donation. This was not because of a failure in planning, but rather because of the unusually high number of donations that were given.
SVC Campus Ministry is the driving force behind hosting these blood drives.
“We hold at least one drive per semester, rotating between the American Red Cross and Vitalant.” explained Jody Marsh, Campus Ministry coordinator.
According to Marsh, blood drives at SVC typically collect 32 units of blood, with the most recent drive collecting 37. Since one blood donation could save up to three lives, the Feb. 2 drive alone has the potential to save the lives of 111 people.
Marsh explained a phenomenon that accounted for the slight surge in the number of donations.
“[What] was interesting was that [the increase in donations] was largely due to members of the community who came due to a Facebook post,” she stated.
“Remember, people who receive blood have to deal with needles too. Many of them are scared as well. Your donation could help them get through a tough time or even save their life.” - Jody Marsh
Marsh went on to cite that only six of the donations came from students.
For many, the idea of giving blood is nerve-wracking – whether it be a fear of needles or the sight of blood that bothers a potential donor.
“Remember,” Marsh explained, “people who receive blood have to deal with needles too. Many of them are scared as well. Your donation could help them get through a tough time or even save their life.”
When it comes to physically overcoming the sensation of giving blood, Marsh said she recommends practicing deep breathing before and during the donation. If donors’ muscles are tense, she stated, it can make the withdrawal more painful.
Along with physical relaxation, Marsh urged that those who are nervous should communicate openly with the phlebotomist. They are no strangers to people who are nervous, and letting them know that about apprehensions will allow them to walk donors through the process slowly.
“It is easy and doesn’t cause significant pain, and it is a simple way to save a life,” stated Marsh.
It takes a little over 3 minutes to read this article. During those 180 seconds, 90 more people need blood. Blood drives in our community help alleviate this need, but just as they require needles, blood bags, testing equipment, and phlebotomists, they need volunteers.