VAIL — Of the 5 million-plus people living in Colorado, most are eligible to donate blood — but only about 4 percent of those people actually do so.
The Bonfils Blood Center and town of Vail are giving potential donors a chance to give blood on Thursday at a community blood drive. The event will take place from 10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Fire Station No. 3 in West Vail. If you miss your chance on Thursday, another will be held at the Eagle Pavilion on Sept. 18 in Eagle Ranch.
“We’ve been hosting it annually for the last several years as a community service,” said Vail Deputy Fire Chief Mike McGee. “There’s a pretty critical need.”
Blood for Colorado and beyond
According to the Bonfils Blood Center, which provides blood to more than 200 hospitals and healthcare facilities throughout Colorado and beyond, about 3,000 people need to donate each week to meet the state’s needs.
“It tends to be in the forefront of your mind when you hear about a big disaster, but there are people every day who need blood because of surgeries or cancer therapy,” said Dianna Hemphill of Bonfils.
For example, every two seconds in the U.S., someone requires a transfusion of blood. Sometimes one person might need a vast number of donations — an organ transplant patient may need up to 100 units of blood (each donation is a unit).
Besides the constant need, blood donations also expire. Red blood cells are usable for 42 days and platelets are only usable for five days. While almost none of the blood that is donated is allowed to expire and go to waste, Hemphill said that more donors are needed to keep the supply coming.
Summer and winter tend to be slower times for donations, so blood drives serve to remind people to take time out of their busy schedules to make a donation appointment.
“People tend to get busy in the summer, and in winter there’s a bigger need with flu and cold season,” said Hemphill. “We try to build up a blood supply now into the fall. You can donate every 56 days, so hopefully some of the people who donate now can also do so again as winter rolls around.”
What to expect
If you have never given blood before, you can find out if you’re eligible by taking the Bonfils pre-screening questionnaire, found at www.bonfils.org under the “donate blood” tab.
Some restrictions include weight, not having traveled to certain countries in the past year and not having gotten a tattoo in the past year. Once you’re cleared, you can set up an appointment.
The entire process once you arrive at the donation center takes about an hour.
“We tell everyone to eat a really good breakfast and drink plenty of water beforehand,” said Hemphill. “When you get there, we’ll do a mini physical, and the blood donation time takes about 20 minutes. They you’ll relax and have juice and cookies, and once you’ve rested up you’ll be on your way.”
The blood is then screened and submitted to up to 13 tests, and then various hospitals and health facilities purchase the blood for patient use. Bonfils provides almost all the blood for Colorado and even ships to other places when there is a need.
Bonfils are one of only eight blood centers that supplies blood to support the U.S. military’s wartime needs. The organization also provided blood products to the Gulf Coast after the 2005 hurricanes, to New York after 9/11 and to Haiti’s 2010 earthquake victims.
Assistant Managing Editor Melanie Wong can be reached at 970-748-2927 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @mwongvail.