With the holiday season resulting in a sharp decrease in blood donation drives, the American Red Cross is in desperate need of blood donors, and Tri-Valley residents are encouraged to help save a life at the Pleasanton Blood Donation Center.
Red Cross officials say that while blood, platelets and plasma donations are always needed, the holiday season lull has left the organization's reserves of type O blood particularly low and that as of Jan. 6, the organization only had enough in supply to last an estimated three days.
"Lifesaving medical treatments and emergencies never take a holiday," Paul Sullivan, senior vice president for Red Cross Biomedical Services, said in a statement. "Declines in donations can affect patient care. That's why the Red Cross is encouraging eligible donors to make an appointment to give now and help those sidelined by illness and trauma."
Type O blood is broken down into two classifications, O-negative and O-positive. Often referred to as universal donors, individuals with type O-negative blood are capable of donating to patients of any blood type, but can only receive blood donations from members of other O-negative donors, making their blood particularly valuable and often on short supply.
Patients with O-positive blood on the other hand are universally compatible with all red blood cells that are positive and Red Cross officials say is compatible with 80% of the population. Those with O-positive blood can only receive donations from other type O donors.
Stressing the severity of the issue, during the holiday season Red Cross estimates that about 500 fewer blood drives than usual were hosted by volunteer sponsor groups. With so many people hosting holiday themed events or traveling -- AAA estimates that a record 115.6 million Americans traveled during the holiday period -- it can become difficult for individuals to find the time to donate.
On average a donation of one pint of blood can be used to benefit up to three patients in need. Donated blood is used to treat medical conditions including anemia, cancer and blood disorders, assist patients going through surgery and even to help new mothers who have lost blood during childbirth.
"You never know when someone you love might end up needing a blood transfusion," said Jaqueline Bakehorn, a family member of a blood donor recipient. "We are so thankful for those who have given blood and would love to see more people donate."
Currently all blood types are needed in order to ensure a reliable supply for patients. Donors are encouraged to schedule an appointment online and bring a blood donor card, driver's license, or two other forms of identification when checking-in.
Donors must weigh at least 110 pounds, be in generally good health and be 17 years old in most states -- although 16-years-olds can donate with parental consent.
In order to prepare for a donation, participants are encouraged to eat iron-rich foods, such as red meat, fish, poultry, beans, spinach, iron-fortified cereals or raisins before heading in. Red Cross officials explain that iron is an essential mineral that is a part of hemoglobin -- a protein that carries oxygen to the tissues throughout the body -- and is required in order to make new blood cells, replacing the ones lost through blood donations.
Donors should also get a good night's rest, drink plenty of water and be sure to digest a healthy amount of vitamin C before donating.
Times vary slightly depending on each person, however the total process of registering and donating takes about one hour and fifteen minutes to complete -- with the actual drawing of a pint of whole blood taking eight to 10 minutes. On the day of the donation participants are encouraged to wear a shirt with sleeves that can be rolled up above the elbow, drink an extra 16 oz. of water and let staffers know which arm they would prefer to use for donating.
After the donation is complete participants should be sure to enjoy some snacks and relax in a donation center's recovery area, drink an extra four (8 oz.) glasses of liquids, avoid alcohol over the next 24 hours and be sure to tell others about the good deed they've just done. Red Cross officials say "the gratification of giving blood is a feeling you'll want to share" and it may just encourage others to donate.
The Pleasanton Blood Donation Center is located at 5880 W. Las Positas Blvd., Suite 34, across the street from Hart Middle School -- it moved from its previous location at Springdale Avenue at the end of March 2019.
Upcoming drives at the Pleasanton Blood Donation Center will be held today, Saturday and Sunday from 7:45 a.m. to 3 p.m., Monday through Wednesday from 11:45 a.m. to 7 p.m. and next Friday from 7:45 a.m. to 3 p.m. The blood center will accept walk-ins if a spot is available, however it is recommended that participants make a scheduled appointment beforehand as the center can get quite busy and space is otherwise not guaranteed.
Donors can search for other Blood Drives, or make an appointment to give now, using the Red Cross Blood Donor App, visiting www.RedCrossBlood.org, calling 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767) or through enabling the Blood Donor Skill on any Alexa Echo device.