Monday Medical: Have a superhero lunch break — donate blood
If you go
What: Bonfils Blood Drive
When: 12:30 to 6 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 1. (Currently, the most openings are from 4 to 6 p.m.)
Where: Yampa Valley Medical Center
More information: To register, visit bonfils.org, site code 0234, or call the Bonfils Appointment Center at 800-365-0006, option 2. The final blood drive of this year will be Nov. 3.
Looking to save a few lives during your next lunch break? You might want to consider donating blood.
In the time it takes to watch an episode of your favorite show on Netflix, you can donate a pint of blood. With three components — red blood cells, platelets and plasma — that pint can help several people, according to Janie Ferrari, business development representative at Bonfils Blood Center.
“Isn’t that amazing?” Ferrari said. “You can actually help or save up to three people with each donation.”
Bonfils Blood Center has been holding blood drives in Steamboat Springs since 1979, with Yampa Valley Medical Center and its dedicated volunteers hosting for more than a decade. Through that 37-year period, 12,486 units of blood have been collected, which has the potential to help up to almost 40,000 people.
“That’s a lot of people that have had their lives saved or enhanced by our communities working together,” Ferrari said.
First-time donors are often surprised by how easy the process is.
“What I hear from most people is that they thought it was this great big deal; then, once they did it, they say, ‘Oh, that’s it? That’s not bad,’” Ferrari said.
During the donation process, donors are checked in, then complete a quick health screening and fill out a donor questionnaire. Next, donors sit in a chair and wait while their blood is collected through a needle inserted in the arm. The collection usually takes four or five minutes.
Donors are then encouraged to wait for 10 minutes to make sure their blood sugar is back up. During that time, they can enjoy free refreshments. In Steamboat, that might mean munching on pizza donated by Soda Creek Pizza, as well as donated Honey Stinger products and PowerIce.
From start to finish, the donation process usually takes 45 minutes to an hour.
Donors must be 18 years old (or as young as 16 with parental acknowledgment), weigh at least 115 pounds and be in good general health. Though many health conditions don’t prevent people from donating, Ferrari recommends calling Bonfils Blood Center or checking online for more specifics.
When donating, it’s important to eat within two hours of the donation time and hydrate for the day or two before. If people have a reaction to donating blood, it’s often because they have forgotten to eat beforehand, Ferrari said.
Currently, most donors are older, so Ferrari especially encourages younger people to come out and try it. People may not realize that donating blood is safe, easy and quick, or they may not be aware of the need.
“People just don’t think about it,” Ferrari said. “Unless it kind of touches your life.”
Once people start donating, the experience can be so rewarding that they may end up donating regularly. So-called “gallon donors” have donated frequently enough to contribute sometimes 20 or 30 gallons of blood.
Nationally, only about 4 percent of the people qualified to donate blood are donors. Colorado is one of the most generous states, and Steamboat also makes significant donations, contributing about 120 pints in an average blood drive, Ferrari said.
If you’re on the fence about donating blood, Ferrari recommends hearing a recipient of donated blood talk about the difference it made in his or her life. Ferrari has heard a number of talks by recipients of donated blood and said audience members are often in tears by the end.
“These people are so grateful,” she said about the recipients. “You’ve saved their lives.”
Susan Cunningham writes for Yampa Valley Medical Center. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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