Nicolaou donating blood Photo by Gregory Visnyai

Gregory Visnyai
JRNM 151

With a desire to help others, people have been gathering at Lorain County Community College to donate their blood. Vitalant, a nonprofit organization hosted the blood drive where students like Alex Nicolaou and Colleen, a nurse at Fairview Hospital, gave blood.

Vitalant is one of the nations largest nonprofit transfusion medicine organizations and comprises a network of community blood centers. This drive was held at LCCC’s College Center on April 3 from 12:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m., and on April 4 from 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. 

“Anybody can put money into a Salvation Army pot at Christmas, but donating blood is a great thing. It directly saves a person’s life,” said David Blessing, supervisor of the blood drive. When blood is collected, three products are extracted: red blood cells, platelets, and plasma. According to the American Red Cross website, approximately 36,000 units of red blood cells are needed daily in the U.S. In addition to the red blood cells, 7,000 units of platelets and 10,000 units of plasma are needed as well. 

O negative blood cells are one of the most needed types, both locally and nationwide. This is because it can be given to all the other blood types, making it versatile in trauma situations. It is possible that a single car accident victim can require up to 100 pints of blood, according to the American Red Cross website. Therefore having a substantial amount of O negative blood readily available is essential. The issue is that only 7 percent of people in the U.S. are O negative.

In general, there is a local and nationwide shortage. After collecting blood, the red blood cells must be used within 42 days and platelets within only five. On average, people who donate blood usually only donate once a year. This can lead to an insufficient amount collected. Twice this year there was a critical shortage, which means there was less than a two-day supply of blood, in Northeast Ohio. “If people were to donate three times per year, we would never see a shortage,” said Sarah Wering, the marketing and communication specialist at Vitalant. 

At other recent drives, Vitalant collected 10 to 15 units of blood on average—which was rather low. But at the drive on April 3, they collected 25 units of blood—which was a great amount. The blood collected at this drive will be distributed to local hospitals.

“This is my first time since 1998,” said Colleen, who gave blood on April 3. Everything went well the very first time she gave blood, except she passed out an hour after donating. But from that experience and donating blood numerous times since, she advises first-time donors to not be nervous and to drink lots of water.

Nicolaou, an LCCC student majoring in computer science and art, gave blood on April 4. He has been giving blood for four years, but the first time he donated, he became dehydrated for an hour and a half after because he did not drink enough fluids. “I think it’s like a nice thing to do—I have plenty of blood,” said Nicolaou. He says to first-time donors that it does not hurt that much.

Facts about giving blood

Before giving blood, one should eat a healthy meal and be well-hydrated. One should also know what medications they take and what conditions they may have. Since there are many requirements for giving blood, Vitalant has made the process more efficient. One can go online to Vitalant.org, and under Donor Express, one can register and answer questions. From there, one will receive a barcode and will be able to schedule a time to give blood.

One common misconception is that veterans from Operation Desert Storm are barred for life for giving blood; however, the truth is that they are only barred for one year. This is due to diseases that can remain dormant in one’s blood. If a person traveled to a country where malaria is known to be present, they will not be able to donate blood for a year since malaria can remain dormant in a person for that duration. But if a person traveled to certain parts of Europe at particular times, there is the potential that they could be barred for life from donating blood.

If a person is healthy and meets all the requirements, anyone from ages 17 (or 16 with parental consent) to even one hundred can give blood. Blessing urges people to give blood and realize the life-saving power of it. He also would like to see more young men giving blood because women outnumber men in giving blood. “That’s right up there with jumping in a river and saving a drowning person—I mean, to me it does,” said Blessing.