The hurricane is gone, but the need for blood transfusions on the East Coast remains unabated, compounded by the inability of Red Cross chapters in the affected states to hold blood drives. “A lot of people don’t make the correlation that they can’t hold blood drives if they have no power or they’re flooded,” explained Beth Framm, Regional Representative for the Southeastern Michigan chapter of the American Red Cross. The Red Cross has testing facilities “running 24/7” and can have freshly collected blood sent to a disaster area in as little as three days.
And of course there is also the local need, which has remained constant. “We supply 43 hospitals in a 5-county region,” which includes the hospitals of the Detroit Medical Center, Framm explained. “We need 900 pints every day.” Students, faculty and staff at Wayne State University are heeding the call. The blood drive started on Monday and continues to Friday, and has had good turnout so far.
Local restaurants are helping out with food and drink for the blood donors. “We’ve given them loaded potatoes from the Potato Place,” said Catarina Voss, a beauty supply clerk who volunteered to help out at the blood drive yesterday. McDonald’s and Slow’s To Go have also chipped in. Potential donors should not go to their appointments on an empty stomach.
Donating blood is not for everyone, but there are many ways to help. Peter Her, a biology student soon headed for medical school donated blood “once but I fainted,” he recalled. He still helps the Red Cross in various ways, such as by manning the registration table and looking after those who just donated.
Disqualifying criteria include travel to regions that have had malaria outbreaks. “Malaria is the main one,” Framm said, but also mentioned mad cow disease. “It changes so often” that they don’t write it down on paper; instead the donor screeners look it up on the Red Cross database after asking the potential donor where they’ve traveled to. Homosexuals are still barred from donating blood but that is because of rules from the Food and Drug Administration. “The FDA regulates everything we do,” Framm explained. Diabetics can donate blood if their condition is well-controlled, but it also “depends on what medications they’re taking.”
There is no upper age limit for donating blood. Framm personally knows regular donors now “in their upper 80s.” But 16-year-olds must have parental consent to donate blood in Michigan, a requirement that drops away at 17. Most of the donors at the WSU blood drive today were undergraduate students, but a good number of professors and staffers also showed up.
All blood types are needed for regular blood donation. However, for “double red” donation, the Red Cross is particularly in need of O+, O–, A– and B– blood. The blood drive at Wayne State continues through Friday. Interested parties may make an appointment by going to http://www.redcrossblood.org/ and entering sponsor code “wsu.” At that website you can also find out about other blood drives near you. For example, quite a few metro Detroit churches will be hosting blood drives in early December.