Summer blood drives, donors fill critical need
BY MIKE WARREN
WISCONSIN RAPIDS – The summertime supply of blood, and those who give it, are both critically low, and the Blood Center of Northcentral Wisconsin is hoping to change both.
With monthly blood drives in Wisconsin Rapids just around the corner, President & CEO Emily Jolin says, “Nearly every one of us has the power to save a life, and it only takes about an hour. That’s how little time it takes to donate blood. Blood supplies remain very low, so please consider being a blood donor.”
Blood drives will be held in the former East Junior High School music room at 311 Lincoln Street in Wisconsin Rapids on Tuesday, July 19 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and Monday, July 25 from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m. Those dates and times are consistent with blood drives held the third Tuesday and fourth Monday of every month in Rapids. Jolin says those donations stay local to central Wisconsin.
“We supply blood products to Aspirus hospitals in the area, and we are the primary blood supplier for Aspirus Riverview,” says Jolin. The Blood Center of Northcentral Wisconsin, based in Wausau, supplies the blood used at a dozen Aspirus hospitals, including those in Stevens Point, Plover and Wausau.
Jolin adds that now is the time of the year when the center would love to see new donors bringing a fresh supply of much-needed blood. “It’s summer. People get busy. They go on vacation. They’re out of their normal routine. And there does seem to be higher usage. Lots of people on the roads. Lots of people four-wheeling, using UTV’s, that type of thing. So, it’s kind of a bad combination of people being busy, schools are not in session, because we do have some school blood drives as well. We know the summers can be pretty rough in the blood industry.”
Even though they need some more than others, Jolin says all blood types are needed. “Type O is the most-common blood type, so it’s also the most-needed blood type. It’s also used when they don’t know – if there is an emergency, and they don’t have time to blood type someone – they will give them O’s in an emergency situation. So, that’s another reason why O’s tend to be the most in need. But, I never want to make it sound like we don’t need those other types. Really we need them all.”
O-negative blood is often called the “universal” type, because it can be given to anyone. O-positive can be given to anyone with a positive blood type. Jolin says their O-negative supply is down “at least 50 percent”, and their O-positive supplies are “60 percent where we want to be.”
That’s where you come in. Jolin hopes those who are able consider becoming a blood donor. While she realizes not everyone can give blood, Jolin adds the need is high, the time it takes is very little, and just a small fraction of people actually donates blood. “Approximately 3 percent of the U.S. population donates blood,” says Jolin. “And right now, there’s really been a decrease in younger donors. The age of our donor population is increasing, and of course that’s a problem.” To add to that problem, Jolin says a blood transfusion occurs every two seconds, and in three-and-a-half to 5 percent of hospital stays, and the average amount of blood received is 2.6 units per patient.
You can donate blood at age 16 with parental consent. Those 17 years and older do not need parental consent. Donors can give blood once every eight weeks.
Jolin says “give yourself an hour” to donate blood. “You’ll come in. You’ll meet up at our registration station. They’ll get you registered. They’ll give you some health history questions to fill out. Once you finish that part, you will go to a screener who will go through the questions with you, they will do a mini physical – pulse, temperature, blood pressure – and we’ll poke your finger to make sure your hemoglobin is high enough to lose a pint (unit), and then you move on to the actual donation step. And, the blood coming out actually only takes about 5-10 minutes. Once that part is finished, we have you sit in our post-donation area, have something to drink, have a snack if you wish. We make sure you’re feeling okay before you head out. I tell people to give yourself an hour, just in case you need a little extra time.”
Appointments are encouraged to promote social distancing, but walk-ins are also welcome. To schedule an appointment, or for more information, call the Blood Center of Northcentral Wisconsin’s toll-free number at 866-566-5900. People with medical conditions or who are taking any medications are asked to call the toll-free number before attending a blood drive to find out if they are eligible to donate.