By Jon Lewis
Superheroes Saving Lives
By Jon Lewis
Photos by Melinda Hunter
There are a couple of legitimate reasons not to donate blood, including recent travel to a Zika-affected region, you’re battling a cold or your iron level is low, but a vague fear that it might hurt shouldn’t enter the equation.
“The pain is not as bad as you think. Our phlebotomists and nurses are very good at what they do,” says Todd Jones, the account manager at BloodSource Shasta. “It really varies from person to person, but a lot of it is just getting over that fear. Once you give, it just gets easier from there—and the people who need that blood are in much worse condition than you are.”
Maybe it feels like you just can’t find the time to donate. Jones has an answer to that as well: “In reality, in that one hour, you can literally give somebody their whole life back.”
As Jones and his colleagues note, there are plenty of reasons you should donate. “You are saving lives,” Jones says matter-of-factly. “There is no replacement for blood. One donation can save up to three lives. Even a few teaspoons can save a baby’s life.”
Half of the blood collected at the BloodSource centers in Redding, Chico and Yuba City is used in the care and treatment of cancer patients in the North State, Jones says, and the rest is used for a host of other issues, including emergency room trauma care.
Last year, in an effort to streamline the donation process and more efficiently serve hospitals in the North State, Sacramento-based BloodSource merged with San Francisco-based Blood Centers of the Pacific.
In Redding, that meant relocating from BloodSource’s leased Park Marina Drive location to the Blood Centers of the Pacific’s facility on Larkspur Lane.
“It’s been a very good thing for our organizations,” says Joe Ayer, the senior manager of recruitment and hospital services for BloodSource’s North Region. “It has allowed us to do more and broaden our resources. We now service 19 hospitals out of the North Region.” The new organization includes 22 donor centers that provide blood for nearly 100 hospitals.
And make no mistake about it, blood is needed, says Alexander Sigua, the public relations manager at BloodSource’s Sacramento headquarters. “Every two seconds, somebody in the U.S. needs a blood transfusion. It’s the blood that’s already available and ready to go that saves people’s lives. It is very important for people to give blood if they’re able to because that blood has to be readily available when they come into the hospital. You never know when that patient could be you or one of your loved ones,” Sigua says.
“For many years, I worked for the Red Cross and I was always telling people to prepare for a disaster,” Ayer says. “Blood donation is similar: it is all of our responsibility to make sure blood is on the shelf when it’s needed.”
On average, only about 35 percent of the population is eligible to give blood, but less than 10 percent actually donate. “Some think it hurts, some think it’s not safe and some are just not into having a needle stuck in their arm,” Ayer says.
All donations, whether it’s whole blood, platelets, plasma or red blood cells, are performed in a sterile environment by trained professionals who strive to make your visit as safe, pleasant and painless as possible.
“We don’t want it to be a bad experience for you and we don’t want you to compromise your system,” Jones says. “It’s good for people to give blood. You get a mini physical, plus those 50 questions we ask and the dozens of things we test for.”
At the BloodSource Shasta center, guests are welcome to catch up on their favorite TV shows and movies on iPads while they donate. When the donation is complete, donors are encouraged to replenish their systems with raisins, cheese, cookies, juice, water, coffee, ice cream and other snacks.
Donors are credited with reward points that can be saved up and exchanged for everything from movie tickets to iPods. During special promotions, donors receive commemorative T-shirts and the BloodSource crew routinely ventures out for mobile blood drives. “Anytime there’s a T-shirt involved, people are really excited about it.”
There’s a bigger picture to keep in mind, beyond the shirts and free cookies, Sigua says. “When you are donating, the biggest thing you should be thinking of is the patient at the other end who is benefitting from your generous donation. At end of day, you should feel satisfied that you’re making a life-saving donation.”
2680 Larkspur Lane, Redding
555 Rio Lindo Ave., Chico