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The need for blood doesnt take vacations
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With school out for summer and families busy with vacations and other plans, blood donations tend to drop this time of year, when the need for blood donations is constant.

According to the American Red Cross website, among Red Cross donors in a given year, 19 percent donate occasionally, 31 percent are first-time donors and 50 percent are regular, loyal donors.

Two blood drives are scheduled in the area in the next week — at St. Augustine University Parish, 135 S. Hickory St., Platteville, today from 1 to 5 p.m., and at the Potosi Fire and Rescue Building, 210 N. Main St., Monday from 1 to 6 p.m. More information is available at 1-800-RED-CROSS.

The Mississippi Valley Regional Blood Center will hold a blood drive at Lutheran Church of Peace, 1345 N. Water St., Tuesday, Aug. 25 from 3 to 6 p.m. For more information, go to 

Four volunteers — Mimi Kluge, Ann Smythe, Marlene McCrea and Joan McCulley — help facilitate several blood drives in the Benton community throughout the year. One blood drive was held at St. Patrick Catholic Church on Main Street. During the school year two blood drives are also held at the Benton High School. 

“Jeff Droessler [the school’s athletic director and teacher] helps recruit the students and makes sure they have their forms signed if they are underage,” said Kluge. “We get a lot of eligible juniors and seniors to give. The goal is to keep them coming back.”

Smythe said a scholarship is available to three high school seniors every year. Those students had to have helped at the blood drive events in the past. 

“We try to recruit for life,” said Kluge.

One pint of blood can save up to three lives. A single car accident victim can require as many as 100 pints of blood, the Red Cross website states. The average adult has approximately 10 pints of blood in his body. Roughly 1 pint is given during a donation.

Kluge said there are always a few rejections, sometimes because of health history information uncovered by the nurse in a private booth, low iron counts, taking certain medications, or not meeting the height and weight requirements. Some donors may not be eligible if they have traveled to certain countries in the past three years where malaria may be present.

A healthy donor may donate red blood cells every 56 days, or double red cells every 112 days. Platelets can be donated every seven days and plasma every 28 days. 

The day of the blood donation, donors must be feeling well, weigh at least 110 pounds and be at least 17 years old. It is recommended to drink more water than normal that day.

During the blood draw, volunteers monitor the donors and make sure they have fluids to replace what is being removed. Donors are asked to stay for approximately 15 minutes afterward to be observed for weakness. Nourishment is provided, typically in the form of sandwiches, cookies or other desserts. 

“We try to replace the glucose and fluids,” said Smythe. During the summer blood collection in Benton strawberry sundaes were served to blood donors. 

Kluge said that the donation events at the high school are a little more eventful. The younger students have to be monitored closely. 

“When they’re nervous they’re more likely to be dizzy and faint,” said Kluge. 

There are eight types of blood, which are determined by the presence or absence of certain antigens — substances that can trigger an immune response if they are foreign to the body. O positive is the most common blood type. Like eye color, blood type is passed genetically from your parents. Whether your blood group is type A, B, AB or O is based on the blood types of your mother and father. Type O-negative blood (red cells) can be transfused to patients of all blood types. It is always in great demand and often in short supply. Type AB-positive plasma can be transfused to patients of all other blood types. AB plasma is also usually in short supply.

The Red Cross website estimates that 38 percent of Americans is eligible to donate blood, but less than 10 percent actually donate. The number of blood donations collected in the U.S. each year is approximately 15.7 million, from 9.2 million blood donors. 

Two most common reasons cited by people who don’t give blood are: “Never thought about it” and “I don’t like needles.” But, it’s important to keep in mind that blood cannot be manufactured — it can only come from generous donors.


Where does blood go? 

Blood donations go through a series of steps and tests to help patients in need. 

The donation process can take 10 to 60 minutes based on if you have donated in the past. This includes registration, a health history and mini physical, blood draw and recovery. Once the blood is collected, it is labeled and stored in coolers until it is transported to a Red Cross center. 

Then the processing begins. The blood is scanned into a computer database and then spun in centrifuges to separate the transfusable components — red cells, platelets and plasma. The red cells are then leuko-reduced and single donor platelets are leuko-reduced and bacterially tested. Test tubes are sent for testing. 

The blood is then tested to establish the blood type and test for infectious diseases. The test results are transferred electronically to the manufacturing facility. If a test result is positive, the unit is discarded and the donor is notified. 

Following the test results, suitable units of blood are labeled and stored for transfusions. Red cells are stored in refrigerators at 42 degrees for up to 42 days. Platelets are stored at room temperature in agitators for up to five days. Plasma and cryo are frozen and stored in freezers for up to one year. 

The blood is able to be shipped to hospitals 24 hours a day, seven days a week.