Giving blood saves lives

Published 12:00 am Monday, March 12, 2007

By Linda Holst, Red Cross Disaster Services chairwoman

During World War II, the military asked the American Red Cross to develop methods to collect and store large amounts of blood and plasma needed to treat the wounded. Thirteen million pints of blood were collected during that war.

Today, nearly one-half of the nation&8217;s blood supply is collected by the Red Cross. In America, someone needs blood every two seconds.

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Janan Beenken has been organizing the volunteers for Albert Lea&8217;s blood drives for the past five years. &8220;My mother and I were blood donors before I began volunteering for the Red Cross,&8221; she said.

Beenken and the Blood Services Region in St. Paul schedule the blood drive dates and locations one year in advance. The blood drives are one or three days in duration.

A blood drive requires 15 to 20 volunteers per day. &8220;The volunteers are so good and very willing,&8221; said Beenken.

The process to give blood begins with a past and present health history interview, which is private and confidential. Next the person&8217;s temperature, pulse and blood pressure are taken. In addition, the blood count (hemoglobin) is measured. If all checks out OK, about one pint of blood is collected. The body will replace the plasma (the liquid) in hours and the red blood cells in a few weeks.

Before leaving, the person drinks fluids and eats a snack.

Beenken said the food is donated from local businesses. &8220;McDonald&8217;s donates the orange drink and Quizno&8217;s donates the cookies.&8221;

Local churches and organizations provide a light meal for the 15-plus Red Cross employees at the blood drive. According to Beenken, Freeborn County is one of the few chapters who still do this.

A person must be at least 17 to give blood. &8220;I see younger, college age people giving blood,&8221; said Beenken. &8220;And a lot of people come as a group from work.&8221;

There are several needs for blood: accidents, transplants, cancer, premature babies and surgeries.

&8220;Newer medical treatments are using more blood,&8221; said Beenken. &8220;Many times people give after someone they know or they themselves have needed blood.&8221;

Each blood donation can save up to three lives. &8220;Giving blood is something you can give that doesn&8217;t cost you money,&8221; said Beenken. Donors may give blood every 56 days (eight weeks).

Albert Lea&8217;s next blood drive is from 1 to 7 p.m. today at Crossroads Evangelical Free Church. Walk-ins are welcome.