Monday, Oct 20, 2014
Health

Donations at community blood centers can lead to happy endings


Published:   |   Updated: January 19, 2014 at 12:25 PM

When Terri Fava began menstruating after an eight-month hiatus, she admits she was relieved. Whatever the reason her cycle stopped, it now appeared it was resuming its normal function. A woman in her mid 40s, Fava knew menopause likely wasn't far off. But she had no other significant symptoms indicating that was the cause of her irregularity.

Fava's relief didn't last long. More than 14 days of heavy bleeding ignited a new concern. Feelings of light-headedness that led to a fall were enough to get her attention, and she drove herself to Brooksville Regional Hospital's emergency room asking for help.

"They immediately ordered an emergency blood transfusion," Fava said. "I told them I felt fine. But they said I shouldn't have been walking. I was down a quart-and-a-half of blood."

Fava spent four days in the hospital undergoing tests to determine the cause of her severe hemorrhaging. She said the transfusion quite possibly saved her life.

Because of people's selfless donations - and LifeSouth Community Blood Centers, which makes those donations possible 363 days of the year - people like Fava can tell their survival stories. But more donors are needed. And LifeSouth Hernando once again is pleading for more blood.

"We are always in need of blood," said Donor Services Manager Anya Hilton. Considering a typical open heart surgery can take tens of units of blood and a single donor gives one pint at a time, the need is never satisfied.

Yet some people won't consider donating blood until they experience the need firsthand or through the story of a loved one or friend. Others will donate once and never come back.

"If everyone who came to donate gave two pints a year, we'd never run out," Hilton said.

Consider these statements from the LifeSouth website:

A single blood donation (1 pint) can save up to three lives.

4.5 million Americans need a blood transfusion each year.

More than 44,000 blood donations are needed every day.

Every two seconds someone in the United States needs blood.

The blood type most often requested by hospitals is Type O.

Platelets promote blood clotting and give those with leukemia and other cancers a chance to live.

Children being treated for cancer, premature infants and children having heart surgery need blood and platelets from donors of all types, especially type O.

More than 1 million new people are diagnosed with cancer each year. Many of them will need blood, sometimes daily, during chemotherapy treatment.

A car accident victim can require as many as 100 pints of blood.

Blood cannot be manufactured - it only can come from donors.

Type O-negative blood can be transfused to patients of all other blood types. AB plasma is usually in short supply.

One in seven people entering hospitals need blood.

LifeSouth is a community blood center, meaning blood donated through the facility on Cortez Boulevard or at one of two mobile blood units are kept inside the community to help local residents with life-saving transfusions.

It doesn't take long to donate blood. The Cortez Boulevard facility is open seven days a week, except for Christmas Day and Thanksgiving Day, and the center sends out two mobile units 363 days to different locations. Donations of regular whole blood take under one hour and donors are screened, given snacks and offered a movie to watch while they give.

Mobile units are seen throughout Hernando County, often at area high schools where students are encouraged to give with a few special incentives. Blood drives are held at least twice a year at all four high schools.

All in all, the process is minimally intrusive to donors. But the reward to the community is monumental, Hilton said. "The most important reason to give blood is because there is no substitution. "When the supply is gone, it's gone," she said.

LifeSouth works daily to spread word about the community's need for blood and blood products. By making the effort as convenient as possible and adding incentives to encourage people to donate, it hopes they will continue to volunteer.

Hilton said refuting misconceptions about blood donations also might help increase participation.

"A lot of things have changed over the years," she said. "There was a time when people with diabetes were told they couldn't donate. Many cancer survivors were told they couldn't donate. That has all changed."

High blood pressure patients also might assume they cannot donate, which is not true. "We check your blood pressure. If you're within range that day then that is not a reason to not give."

The most common reason why donors donate blood, according to LifeSouth, is because they want to help others.

Laurie Burbank has been an avid donor for as long as she can remember. "The first time I gave was in one of those blood mobiles," she said. "Now I give as often as I can."

Burbank donates because she knows the community needs her blood type. "It doesn't take much of my time," she said. "And our bodies replenish what we give, so why not?"

Hilton said the community always needs Type O because it is the universal blood type and a patient in an emergency situation doesn't need to be tested to receive it. But the center needs every blood type and will make a special appeal to the community if a certain type is low.

Burbank, who is Type A, sometimes is called on when her blood type is needed.

"We don't deter anybody from donating," Hilton said. "If someone has questions or concerns, they can always go on our website or call and ask someone."

For information about blood donations, access to the mobile blood bank schedule or to organize a blood drive, visit LifeSouth at www.lifesouth.org.

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