Summer brings blood demand
ARUP Blood Services, one of Utah’s leading blood donating organizations, is in dire need of donors during the summer months.
"We supply blood to the University Medical Center, the Huntsman Cancer Institute, Primary Children’s Hospital and Shriners Children’s Hospital. The blood usage in those four facilities, three of them critical care, has almost tripled in the last 30 days," said Patsy Barnes, Park City resident and community relations representative for ARUP.
The demand for blood, Barnes said, is caused by people participating in more dangerous activities in the summer months. While the demand is rising during the summer, the supply also decreases during the same time period.
"Once we hit Memorial Day, our donations drop 30 40 percent. Its’ just a huge critical need," Barnes said.
Some cases need fresh blood. Most children need blood that is more specialized and less than five days old. Barnes, who has been working with ARUP since January, is surprised at the high numbers of transfusions hospitals do every week.
"They use an enormous amount of blood products," Barnes said.
The diminishing donations during the summer months are tied to many circumstances, Barnes said. A lot of the support and donations come from schools and religious groups.
"Because we get a lot of support from the high schools and a lot of religious organizations, it seems like we’re in most critical need during the summers. Once we hit summer we lose all the high school population and the religious organizations aren’t as active for some reason." The Catholic Church, she said, "has added a bunch of drives that have helped."
The statistics don’t favor those that may need blood.
"One in three people that we know, in our lifetime, will need blood. But, less than one in 10 of us ever donate blood," Barnes said.
Seeing that statistic firsthand has been somewhat surprising to Barnes.
"The work is quite enjoyable but, also quite shocking at how few people actually donate blood," Barnes said. "We struggle very hard to get 50 units of blood. There are people that can’t donate for various reasons but, coming into the work I was really surprised how few people make any effort to donate blood."
Connie Smith, a Francis resident, is among the few. She has donated 17 times and more than two gallons of blood.
"She has literally helped save the lives of over 35 people, how many people can say that?" Barnes said.
Smith doesn’t see her work as exceptional, rather a duty that has turned into a habit. Her blood is specifically helpful as it contains an antigen that helps babies to fight off infection.
"I have been donating blood for ARUP for five years," Smith said. "I have them call me every eight weeks, so I go about every 10 weeks. I have a two-gallon pin. I donate whole blood one pint at a time. It’s just a responsibility that you have to a greater community. We all have a responsibility in our community. This is what I do."
Smith first started donating blood when her friend’s father was in the hospital and needed "quite a bit of blood." She lives an active lifestyle and hopes one day, if needed, a little good karma from her good deeds will come back to her.
"I’m a skier and a mountain biker; I’ll probably need a blood transfusion from one of those sports at some point of time," Smith said, laughing.
Some people react differently to donating blood. Some people faint or suffer minor side-effects, but not Smith.
"Donating blood doesn’t bother me," Smith said. "It doesn’t make me dizzy or anything. I saw a commercial about car accidents around the holidays and it said only eight percent of people that are eligible donate, and I thought, that it doesn’t bother me so I should do it."
Smith enjoys the pampering that is given to her afterward, she said. ARUP provides juice and treats following the donation.
"It takes about 40 minutes then you get to pamper yourself the rest of the day," Smith said. "There’s no heavy lifting and no sudden movements after you donate.
"There’s no substitute for blood. You or someone you know will need blood. I feel that it’s more of a responsibility than a noble or charitable effort. Once you do it, it’s not as bad as you thought it would be. I’ll be doing it the rest of my life."
There are two blood drive events the public can participate in for free this week. There will be a blood drive at St. Mary’s Catholic church Sunday, July 9 from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. The public can show up at any time. There is a "Culinary Meets Capillary" event at the Gateway Center in Salt Lake from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Wednesday, July 12. There will be samples from area restaurants and people can win prizes and coupons. To donate at an ARUP center (next to University of Utah or in Murray) call (801) 584-5272 for an appointment and directions. Donation centers are open seven days a week.
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