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Life Blood

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— September 25, 2017

Life Blood

By Violet Snow
  • Giving back to our communities can take the form of volunteer work or fundraising for charities.
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By aiding the New York Blood Center, Nature’s Plus employees LIFE BLOOD make their donations personal.

Giving back to our communities can take the form of volunteer work or fundraising for charities. This year, during one day at the office, 28 Nature’s Plus employees gave perhaps the most personal donation of all, their own blood, during a drive conducted by the New York Blood Center (NYBC, nybloodcenter.org). “I’ve always thought a blood drive is a good thing to do,” says Human Resources Director Susan Lange, who organized the event. “There’s a shortage of blood right now. I have a family member who in the past had to have a lot of transfusions, so I’m aware of the importance.” Lange contacted NYBC, a nonprofit organization that is one of the largest independent, community-based blood centers in the country. The group collects 500 to 800 pints of blood a day on Long Island, according to NYBC administrator Lisa Lee, and holds 10 to 14 corporate blood drives daily, with the supplies collected going to hospitals throughout Long Island. NYBC sent Lange informational emails she could forward to staff so they might be inspired to donate blood and would know what to expect.

Great Need

The need for blood is high in a world of sophisticated medical facilities and transplant programs. Patients who are weak from low iron require red blood cells, while those receiving chemotherapy need platelets to allow their blood to clot again. When there is not enough blood available, patients may wait for hours for the correct blood type, delaying their recovery. After years on an organ transplant list, a patient may lose the opportunity to receive a new organ if blood is not on hand. All in all, about one in seven hospital admissions requires a blood transfusion, and due to the limited shelf life, supplies must be continually replenished. Each donation of whole blood is divided into its components and can help up to three people. Red cells, needed to carry oxygen throughout the body, can be stored for 42 days. Platelets must be used within five days. Plasma is the nutrient-rich fluid that travels with blood cells through the body. Blood donors must be 16 to 75 years old, weigh at least 110 pounds, eat well and drink plenty of fluids—particularly on the day of donation when skipping breakfast is not advised. Anyone who received a tattoo in the past 12 months is disqualified unless the tattoo was applied in New Jersey, where the practice is precisely regulated. An individual may give blood once every 56 days but should not donate while suffering from a cold, flu or sore throat. Women may donate during their menstrual cycle. Any company, community group, place of worship or individual may host a blood drive. Lee said blood drives are sometimes conducted inside the building of the host organization, but because Lange expected a number of donors, she asked NYBC to send a bus to the Nature’s Plus office. The bus contained two small interview rooms, a large space with stations for technicians to draw blood and five beds for relaxing after donation. Prospective donors answered a few questions about their health and then received a mini-physical that checked blood pressure, temperature, pulse, and iron level. At the donating area, the donor’s arm was cleaned with an antiseptic, and blood was collected using new, sterile, disposable supplies. A small bandage was applied to the withdrawal site. After the blood was drawn, donors were encouraged to sit and enjoy refreshments for 15 minutes, drink plenty of fluids and leave the bandage on for at least four hours. Normal blood volume is restored within 24 hours. The entire process typically takes about an hour, while the actual drawing of a pint of blood takes no more than 10 minutes. Blood drives are especially welcome in summer when donation rates diminish due to family vacations and college breaks. At the same time, the need for blood remains high, particularly on the Fourth of July weekend, when car accident rates spike. O-negative blood, which can be given to virtually any recipient, is in high demand in trauma situations and emergency rooms across the country and therefore is chronically in short supply. People with O-negative blood are especially urged to donate, but all blood types are needed.

A Chance to Help

At Nature’s Plus, employees signed up over the course of several weeks and then showed up on donation day; the company gave two movie tickets to each person. “A lot of people would’ve signed up anyway,” said Lange. “Thirty-three people showed up, but five did not meet the criteria for donation. Some just came and donated because they saw the bus was there.” Senior Sales Operations Manager Eileen Curtin was happy to have the chance to donate. “I don’t like getting stuck with a needle,” she says, “but I thought, if I didn’t do this, and somebody needed it…You have to get past your fears sometimes to step out of yourself. You never know when you may be on the receiving end. I was very pleased that as an organization, we supported a blood drive.” The last time Christine Collins, Manager of Contract Packaging, gave blood, the technician had trouble finding her vein, but this time her donation was successful. “The anxiety is there,” she reports, “but I definitely will do it again. Giving blood is helping people, and that’s what everyone should be doing and thinking about. It was uplifting and worthwhile.” “You have to give back to the community,” says Lange. “It’s also a good bonding opportunity for the employees. It makes them feel good, and it’s easy to do because it’s right here. I was around a lot and got to talk to some of the employees, and I was glad to get to know more about them. Overall, it was a really positive experience.”

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