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Make it a habit to save lives

Blood Collection Specialist Michael Martin prepares to bandage Jim Rehaume’s arm after he donated blood at a Puget Sound Blood Center mobile drive Dec. 30 at First United Methodist Church in Oak Harbor - Katie McVicker/Whidbey News-Times
Blood Collection Specialist Michael Martin prepares to bandage Jim Rehaume’s arm after he donated blood at a Puget Sound Blood Center mobile drive Dec. 30 at First United Methodist Church in Oak Harbor
— image credit: Katie McVicker/Whidbey News-Times

As backwards as it may seem, making a commitment to save lives in 2011 may be easier than a resolution to cut back on coffee or after-dinner munchies.

January was named National Blood Donor Month to encourage people to donate blood during a traditionally-low period for donations.

The Puget Sound Blood Center supplies blood to Whidbey General Hospital and most similar facilities in Western Washington. According to the Blood Center’s mobile operations leader, Tom Richards, it takes about 900 daily donations to keep the Blood Center at operational levels, but during the holidays, many people are on vacation or are trapped indoors due to winter conditions. When a snow storm hit Whidbey this Thanksgiving, the Blood Center reached critical levels, meaning it had less than a two-day supply of blood.

Richards said it’s important for people to help keep the blood supply at optimal levels because it gets drained so quickly. He said one open heart surgery uses 85 units of blood and a gunshot or stabbing wound can wipe out an entire supply of a certain blood type. Additionally, Richards said people should donate because they’ll probably need support from the blood bank at some point before they die.

“The likelihood that you’ll have a transfusion in a lifetime is pretty good,” he said.

Richards leads a lot of the blood drives that take place on Whidbey. He travels with the blood center’s mobile unit to island churches and stores making it easy for the public to donate. He said the center usually projects about 70 donations will come out of every island drive and that he couldn’t remember a time when they didn’t reach that goal.

However, Dur Roberson, who volunteers at blood drives with the Oak Harbor Lions Club, said their last drive seemed a bit slow.

“It’s holiday season and people are gone,” he said at a drive on Thursday, Dec. 30. “I think we’ll have less than we normally have based on this morning.”

Roberson has been overseeing blood drives for the past five years and said there’s no shortage of opportunities to donate on the island. Plus, he added that the treats the Lions Club offers to donors, like cookies, cakes and brownies, are well worth the trip.

“All of our stuff is homemade,” he said. “That’s one of our big draws.”

Any person in good health, who is at least 18 years old and who weighs at least 110 pounds is eligible to donate blood every 56 days. Fifteen and 16-year-olds may donate with a consent form signed by a legal guardian. People who have recently traveled to foreign countries, who are taking certain medications or who have been recently ill may not be able to donate. Check the Pugest Sound Blood Center’s website, psbc.org for a full list of donor requirements and for upcoming blood drives.

Island resident Jim Rehaume said he feels donating is the least a person can do. “I come out every month,” he said at a drive held at First United Methodist Church in Oak Harbor.

Upcoming blood drives

The Coupeville Lions Club will host a blood drive from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 13, at the Coupeville United Methodist Church, 608 N. Main St. The Oak Harbor Lions Club will host its next drive from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 24, at the First United Methodist Church in Oak Harbor, 1050 SE Ireland St.

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