Getting blood flowing in January

Jacque Berry has blood drawn by Roxanne Richburg at the blood bank at St. Mary’s Regional Medical Center. About 5 percent of the population donates blood on a regular basis, according to Jill Breman, a donor recruiter.

Maybe winter’s icy blast makes our blood flow more slowly in January.

Perhaps it’s because folks are just now shaking off a holiday hangover. Or it could be because colder weather makes it harder to get around or people are more prone to fall ill.

Whatever the case, January typically is the slowest month for blood donations, though the need for blood for surgeries, newborns, cancer patients and accident victims does not decrease.

“I just do it because I know what they do with it,” Jacque Berry said on Tuesday, while reclining comfortably and giving blood at St. Mary’s Regional Medical Center.

Although hundreds of people give blood at the center and through the traveling Bloodmobile each year, recruiting donors typically is the most difficult this month. That’s why January has been named National Blood Donor month, said Jill Breman, a donor recruiter at the blood center.

“It’s a way to give back without giving money. It’s giving life,” Breman said. “It’s like paying it forward.”

Blood supplies are good for 42 days. Blood donated at St. Mary’s is used locally and distributed to regional hospitals.

Donors who have given at least a gallon of blood over the course of multiple visits are rewarded with a party held by the hospital in March. Blood donors and donors who supply blood for pheresis, a process whereby blood is filtered for components such as platelets and plasma, are honored at the blood center on a plaque. People can donate blood once every eight weeks and pheresis once every four weeks. Those at the top of the list, including one of the highest-ranking blood donors, Lonnie Shenold of Eckert, have donated nearly 30 gallons.

“They get so competitive,” Breman said. “Thank goodness those people are out there.”

About 5 percent of the population gives blood on a regular basis, she said. It’s been helpful that since 2009 the age to give blood in Colorado was lowered, and now teenagers as young as 16 can donate. That has the effect of introducing teenagers at an earlier age to giving blood, a habit that blood banks hope teenagers adopt over the course of a lifetime.

Giving blood can be healthy for some, especially for men who tend to have elevated levels of iron. Those who give blood also receive blood pressure, temperature and pulse checks and free cholesterol screening a couple times a year.

While screening one man prior to a blood draw, Breman said she noted that his blood showed severely decreased levels of iron. She advised him to see his doctor. Breman said she learned later through the grapevine that the man had surgery to remove a cancerous tumor on his colon.

“These little checks can say a lot about your body,” she said.

To donate blood, visit St. Mary’s Regional Blood Center, 750 Wellington Ave., or call Breman at 244-2066.


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