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ISSUE 120 VOL 5 PUBLISHED 10/27/2006

Blue Key drive donates

By Jean Mullins
News Editor

Friday, October 27, 2006

The Blue Key Honor Society chapter of St. Olaf College held its annual blood drive Wednesday and Thursday. Leaders hoped to collect 80 to 100 units of usable blood. Recruiters signed up approximately 200 people, allowing that some would not show up and some would not be suitable donors for various reasons.

"The fact that people are willing to give of themselves in that way really says something about them," said Blue Key member Matt Stortz ‘07. "There is no other chance if you’re not pre-med to save lives."

Donor Suzanne Myers ‘07 agrees. "I give blood because I can potentially help a few people out," Myers said, "and it only takes an hour of my time."

Stortz acknowledged that fear keeps many from donating and shared his own experiences of giving blood. "It’s not that bad," he said with a smile.

Becca Wheeler ’07 explains that a bad experience in high school keeps her from donating again.

"Basically my body liked to keep my blood inside," she said. "But I’m still alive and appreciate people brave enough to give blood."

Stortz also pointed to the myth that there are lots of reserves of blood as a reason some use to justify not donating. The truth is, he said, that there is only four to five day supply of blood in the reserves at any one time.

Blood is most important for trauma patients, who may spontaneously bleed after serious injury. Often patients may need blood following surgery.

The Northfield Hospital has, on an average day, 14 units of blood in stock and only four types of blood, according to Linda Cook, lab clinical coordinator at the Northfield Hospital. The hospital transfuses 30 to 40 units per year, all of which come from the Red Cross Blood Bank in St. Paul. If a patient comes in needing a different blood type, the hospital will request it from Faribault’s blood bank or from the Red Cross in the Cities.

Northfield Hospital rotates out the units of blood to larger hospitals as they reach their expiration date to ensure that the units get used.

Blood can be separated into its component parts – red blood cells, platelets and plasma. Red blood cells give blood its color. Platelets are fragments of cells that help with clotting. Plasma is the fluid that the red blood cells flow in. All of these can be separated and administered to patients separately. The Northfield Hospital keeps fresh frozen plasma on hand, but not platelets because they are difficult to store.

The Red Cross website reports that two percent of donations are rejected because of test results after donation, but say that only a fraction of these then pose a serious health risk. Before donation, potential donors are screened for potentially risky behaviors, such as drug use, or for other potential health problems in the medical history. After donation, the Red Cross runs as many as 12 tests on each donation to determine if the sample is infected with HIV/AIDS, hepatitis, syphilis, leukemia and others.

The Red Cross also removes leukocytes, the white blood cells which attack foreign bodies in the blood, from the blood product. While very beneficial in the one’s own body, the white blood cells already are viewed by another person’s body as foreign and therefore potentially dangerous, causing adverse reactions such as a fever and chills as well as more serious problems. By removing the white blood cells, the blood product is safer for patient use.

To be eligible to give blood, one must be at least 17 years old and weigh 110 pounds. Potential donors with certain conditions, such as high blood pressure or anemia, may donate if their conditions are under control at the time of donation, according to the Red Cross website. Potential donors taking medications may be acceptable. Potential donors recovering from an illness will probably not be allowed to donate.

The Blue Key Honor Society is a national leadership society that inducts 12 to 20 people per year. The Blue Key Honor Society does several service projects throughout the year, the annual blood drive being its biggest. Stortz explained that this was a tradition that initially drew him to the Society. "We have done well in the past," he said. "It’s intimidating."

Many were enthusiastic about giving blood on Wednesday and Thursday. "One hour and the potential to save some lives?" Myers said. "Better than picking up trash on the side of the highway and you get snacks afterward."

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