For Christmas, give the gift of life by donating blood

dworthington@heraldonline.comDecember 22, 2013 

  • To donate

    To learn more about Community Blood Centers of the Carolinas go to The site lists locations for blood drives as well as testimonials from those who have needed blood.

It is the perfect gift for Christmas, a birthday, an anniversary, any occasion that requires remembering.

It is the gift of life – donating blood.

It is a gift so much needed but often in short supply.

It’s estimated that 37 percent of the U.S. population is eligible to donate but only 5 to 10 percent do.

If just 1 percent more became donors, there would not be shortages in the winter and summer, say blood banks. Locally, if all donors gave just three times a year, there would be no shortages at Piedmont Medical Center or the Carolinas HealthCare System hospitals or at the other partners with the Community Blood Centers of the Carolinas. All of the blood donated to Community Blood Centers drives is used locally.

But it is more than statistics; it is people.

It’s children in York County suffering from acute lymphocytic leukemia. It’s veterans returning from Afghanistan and Iraq. Sometimes our neighbors need red cells and platelets every five to seven days – every week of their lives to survive.

It’s those who have suffered the trauma of car wrecks. An accident victim can need 100 pints or more of red blood cells.

It’s those suffering from cancers and diseases who need large numbers of platelet transfusions to survive.

Then there are the people who come to our hospitals for regularly scheduled surgeries. Approximately one in seven people being treated at local hospitals needs blood for treatment.

And when big disasters strike, well, the blood used is already in the blood bank. It already has been donated and separated into platelets, red cells and plasma.

But there is a constant need. The shelf life of platelets is five days, 42 days for red blood cells, and plasma can be frozen and stored for up to a year.

But the simple fact is just one pint of donated blood can save up to three lives.

Some people have become passionate about giving.

Robert D. White, the EMS community relations coordinator at PMC and the co-chair of Safe Kids York County, shares the passion. He’s seen the trauma and the need for blood while working on PMC’s rescue units. And his father was a cancer victim.

Erica Prater is a registered nurse at Piedmont, working in the heart unit. It’s her job to go to the hospital’s blood bank and draw the units needed for surgery. She doesn’t want to come back empty-handed.

That’s why White and Prater were among the donors who gave during PMC’s recent Give the Gift of Life. The goal for the two-day drive was modest, 30 units each day.

Other drives held by Community Blood Centers of the Carolinas have goals of 100 units or more. Those drives often are held at high schools, said Sherri Glen, sponsorship development coordinator for the centers. “We want to teach them while they are young,” she said.

Donors must be at least 16 years old and weigh at least 120 pounds. Donors may give every 56 days.

It is a relatively easy process, about one hour from start to finish with the actual blood donation lasting about 10 minutes.

Community Blood Centers of the Carolinas then performs 14 tests – 11 for infectious diseases – on each unit of donated blood before it is used.

Lack of knowledge is one reason people offer for not donating.

Others say they are fearful it will hurt. Yes, there is a needle, but White said it’s no more painful than a slight sting.

But the most popular excuse, Glen said, is that they haven’t been asked. She said her job description is continually begging for donors. “We will have blood drives anywhere we can park the bus,” she said.

Consider yourself asked. Give the gift of life.

Don Worthington •  803-329-4066 •

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