Life is precious, and no one knows that better than anyone who works with blood drives. Blood is needed to treat all kinds of operations and diseases. Without it, all sorts of complications can arise and even death for the thousands of people who might need blood every day. In this world of quick fixes and the idea of taking a pill to make people better, blood is one exception. "Blood cannot be man made," Debby Larsen, lab supervisor at Fulton County Hospital, said.
An American Red Cross bloodmobile will be at the Fulton County Hospital Nov. 19 from noon to 5 p.m., and Larsen said she would like to see as many people as possible out there giving blood to save lives. "What we've been trying to do is get the community more involved," Larsen said.
"After the first of the year, we will start having them (blood drives) inside the hospital, which we're very excited about," Larsen said. The blood drives will be performed in the physical therapy side of the hospital at the start of the new year about every other month.
"For such a small hospital we actually do use quite a bit of blood," Larsen said. For the first six months of this year Larsen said the hospital has used in some way about 146 units of blood.
"The urgent need is there," Larsen said.
Many people avoid giving blood because they think it hurts or they're not sure they can give blood. However, if one prepares themselves properly to give blood, giving blood can be no worse than getting a flu shot. As to whether or not people can or cannot give blood, they can at least try to give blood.
Before giving blood, Larsen explained that a few medical history questions are asked by trained individuals who have experience in blood donations. If someone is taking medications, usually that does not disqualify them from giving blood. Medications taken to control blood pressure, cholesterol or diabetes usually doesn't interfere with a person giving blood as long as the disease or condition is well controlled.
If a person's iron levels, or hemoglobin, are too low, he or she cannot give blood. A mini physical is performed by a sharp prick of the finger to determine a person's iron levels before giving blood. According to the American Red Cross, potential blood donors can eat iron rich foods before giving blood to increase their iron levels. Some examples of iron rich foods are meats like beef, pork and chicken; fruits and vegetables like beans, beets, greens, raisins and dried apricots; and breads and cereals like whole-grain breads and iron-fortified cereals.
Some people have the misconception that blood transfusions are only needed for complicated surgeries. According to Larsen, that is not always the case. She said those with cancer often feel week and require blood transfusions or platelets for treatment of some forms of cancer. Some older patients can become anemic, have low iron, and feel week. A transfusion helps them.
"Preemies (pre-born babies) almost always need a blood transfusion," Larsen said. New born babies have about one to two cups of blood in their bodies. She said these babies always get fresh O negative blood, which is the most coveted blood type because it is universal. This blood type can be used on anyone with a different blood type.
"You'll find if you are O negative and haven't given blood in a while, someone will call you," Larsen said. She said the hospital always keeps about two units of O negative blood on hand for emergencies.
"(Blood) is used in so many different ways," Larsen said. She said there are three components of blood that can be used separately: red blood cells, platelets and plasma.
"There are so many units that are used every day (around the world) that it's hard to keep up," Larsen said. According to the American Red Cross someone in the United State is in need of a blood transfusion about every two seconds.
Unfortunately, the pools of people the Red Cross depends on to give blood are dwindling because there are service men and women who have been overseas who have to wait about 12 months before giving blood. Others cannot give blood because of certain medical conditions. "We're trying to rekindle (the process of giving blood) and especially get the young kids involved so that they can be life-long donors," Larsen said.
"It hurts a little but it helps so many people, and it's such a worthwhile thing to do," Larsen said.