Slow months for donationsAs summer approaches, blood donations tend to slip while the need for blood increases, said Deb Schue, supervisor at Dak-Minn Blood Bank. “People get busy, are out of town or forget to donate.”
By: Pamela Knudson, Grand Forks Herald
As summer approaches, blood donations tend to slip while the need for blood increases, said Deb Schue, supervisor at Dak-Minn Blood Bank. “People get busy, are out of town or forget to donate.”
More activity — motorcycles, four-wheelers and boating accidents — boosts the calls for blood.
“Coming into summer, we struggle to keep up with the desired zone,” or supply level, said Terri Hintz, transfusion and tissue service supervisor at Altru Health System. “It gets a little hairy sometimes.”
Altru’s focus is to not fall behind, she said. “One bad accident can put a pretty big dent in our supply. That’s all it takes.”
Last year, Altru transfused more than 6,500 units of blood products into its patients, said Mark Jensen, donor resource coordinator at Dak-Minn Blood Bank, in an email. “We have been seeing an increase over the years of blood transfusions.”
One reason for the increase can be traced to expanded cancer services, said Schue, as well as more trauma and open heart procedures.
“Our usage of platelets has tripled in the last three years,” she said, mostly for oncology but also for some surgeries.
Another is, with the hiring of neonatologists, more premature infants are staying at Altru for care rather than being transferred to other medical centers.
“We now keep babies that are sicker,” said Hintz. “Sometimes, when you’re born tiny, the body doesn’t made blood very efficiently.”
Babies who need to have a lot of lab work done may also require blood transfusion, she said.
N.D.’s only hospital-based blood bank
Dak-Minn Blood Bank, established in 1974 to supply blood for then-St. Michael’s Hospital, is the only hospital-based blood bank in North Dakota.
In 2011, 5,906 people came in to donate, about one-third of them were older than 65 and younger than 25. The remaining 4,000 were in the 25-65 age range. At 16, donors must have parental consent.
Every spring, the center conducts blood drives at area high schools, a practice that opens up a whole new group of donors, Hintz said. “The challenge is to keep ‘em coming. We’re trying to develop that into a lifelong habit.”
Some people with diabetes believe that they are ineligible to give. They can.
But there are those who can’t — for a wide range of reasons, said Schue. Of all those who come in to donate, about ten percent are turned down.
Of those, about 60 to 75 percent are turned away because of low iron levels. Other reasons are: having a cold or flu, having traveled to a risk area or having been stationed at certain air bases in the United Kingdom or Europe from 1980 to 1996 where the meat supply was at risk for Variant Creutzfeldt- Jakob disease, which is related to mad cow disease.
Dak-Minn Blood Bank has “fabulous donors,” said Hintz. “When the need is there and we put out the call, people come.”
Some people feel “a calling” to donate, she said. “They come back religiously, every eight weeks.”
Odney Ellingson of East Grand Forks said he started giving blood after he sustained a serious head injury in a 1977 snowmobile accident.
“I received three pints of blood and 400 stitches,” he said. “I thought I should give some back.”
“Some” has turned into 67 gallons, and he’s aiming for 100 gallons.
Jerry Bass of Grand Forks has donated “somewhere around 40 gallons,” he said. “It’s something that I can do, and it saves lives.”
“At 64, I’m just thankful that I’m healthy enough to do it.”
Jack Chatt, Grand Forks, who has donated nearly 50 gallons of blood, said he gives “because I like to; I think a person should do it.”
He has no after-effects, he said. “I’d rather give than receive. And I get my juice and doughnut fix for the month.”
As a boy in grade school, Pete Hoistad, Grand Forks, said he accompanied his father when he gave blood. “It wasn’t spooky.”
He started donating at age 17, and has been a regular donor for more than 30 years, he said. “It feels good to donate.
“Not all of us are in a position to impact another person’s life, to help them get well or save a life,” he said. “As an accountant, I don’t have too opportunities to do that.”
Besides, blood is a “renewable resource.”
“We appreciate everybody who takes times to donate,” Hintz said, “because we know without them we couldn’t do our work.”