In the United States, 44,000 units of blood are required each day to save the lives of people who suffer from trauma and disease, but less than 10 percent of the population donates blood each year, according to the American Association of Blood Banks.
"People don't donate (blood) like they used to, especially in economic times like this," said Suzanne Rinehart, manager of transfusion and blood donor services at St. Elizabeth Health Center in Youngstown.
"(St. Elizabeth) is the only Level 1 trauma center around here and it serves the tri-county area. In order to support that kind of a program, you've got to have a sizable blood supply,'' Rinehart said. ''We use over 25,000 units of blood products each year."
Tribune Chronicle photos / Jennifer Shima
Ron McClellan donates blood at a recent American Red Cross drive in Warren. McClellan said he has donated at least 110 times.
Most of those blood products come from donors who give to the American Red Cross.
"We're moving towards educating a younger population. Our biggest donor base is baby boomers and the World War II generation," said Katy Berger, communications specialist at the American Red Cross.
"As they start to age, they're going to be using more blood products so it's important for us to educate young donors on the importance of giving, because they're going to be the donors of tomorrow," Berger said.
To be eligible to donate blood, you must:
- Be at least 17 years old (16 with parental permission)
- Weigh at least 110 pounds
- Be in good health
Before donating, you should:
- Get a good night's sleep
- Drink plenty of fluids
- Eat within two to three hours
- Wear clothes with sleeves that can be raised above the elbow
Be sure to bring your:
- Government-issued I.D.
- Parental consent form if 16
Source: The American Red Cross
Upcoming American Red Cross blood drives
Monday, 1:30 to 6:30 p.m. St. Robert's Catholic Church, 4659 Niles-Cortland Road, Cortland. Double Reds available.
- Saturday, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., Cortland Moose Lodge, 6400 state Route 46, Cortland. Double Reds available.
Feb. 27, 1 to 6 p.m. First United Methodist Church, 22 N. Market St., Girard.
To schedule a blood drive, contact Christinia Gargas, donor recruitment representative, at 330-604-8595.
Joshua Floyd of Leavittsburg is 23 years old and has been donating regularly for five years.
"It helps the community and anything I can do for the community, that's what I'll do," he said.
Joshua Floyd and Ron McClellan of Warren were the first people to donate at an American Red Cross blood drive in Warren on Feb. 8.
"Blood is needed so bad. If we could get the other 95 percent of the population to give, we wouldn't have a problem," said McClellan. He said he has donated at least 110 times.
For McClellan, donating blood is a no-brainer, but processing donations is anything but simple.
"When you donate blood, it's actually a three-day process," Berger said. "You go into a blood drive and you give a pint of blood. That blood is taken back to our headquarters in Cleveland.
''The blood is then separated into its components, and then the blood is sent out for testing in one of our national testing labs and it's tested for about a dozen different diseases to make sure that it's OK to transfuse to a patient," she said.
"The American Red Cross and the FDA agree that the blood supply is safer today than it has ever been, and it's a safe thing to do, and you shouldn't hesitate to give blood," Berger said.
Rinehart said, "Blood is highly regulated, so there are lots of rules that have to be obeyed. It's very much a bank in the sense that you can't lose any deposits or withdrawals, and you have to be able to account for everything. Blood really is a community resource.
''Everybody in the community donates, therefore nobody is going to be denied blood if we can avoid it."
"You can't have a Level 1 trauma center without a significant blood bank," she said. "You can't have an oncology center without blood, you can't have heart cases without blood. You can't do a lot of orthopedic work without a blood bank. These are everyday patients, but they're the ones who need the products."
"I'm proud of our blood bank," Rinehart said. "I've gotten blood here as a patient."
"One out of every 10 people admitted to the hospital needs blood, and if you talk to a group, someone has needed blood or knows someone who has needed blood at some point," Berger said. "It's important for people to donate locally to keep that blood supply strong."
"We had a (young child) who needed platelets every week during the course of his therapy," Rinehart said. "One of my donor techs donated the platelets every week for him. It's a wonderful business.
''Yes, we have terrible tragedies. There are lots of people we can't save, but there a lot of people that we do and they wouldn't be alive today without the transfusion."
Christinia Gargas organizes local blood drives for the American Red Cross and said she hopes people understand that "the need is constant and you never know who your donation is going to touch.
"It could be your neighbor, it could be your relative, it could be yourself, and making sure that the supply is there and ready for patients as they need it is so critical," Gargas said.
Rinehart said, "People are only transfused when their life is at stake, so you really are saving someone's life.''
Gargas said, "People don't realize how important (blood donation) is sometimes until their loved one is impacted. Life is only made possible through the generosity of donors. It's a very unique and special thing."