Hampton school board leads community blood drive

Tuesday, January 21, 2020 | 12:01 AM

There’s a critically low blood supply in the Pittsburgh region, a lot less than what is needed to supply a hospital, according to local Vitalant blood supply centers.

This is not a good position to be in especially when emergencies and trauma events occur unscheduled and unpredictably, according to Kristen Lane, the marketing lead at Vitalant, a national nonprofit medicine transfusion organization.

This is why six Hampton school board members are doing their part by giving blood at a community blood drive on an. 29, at the Hampton High School auxiliary gym. It will be held from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

They’re hoping to not only help with donations, but to encourage others to join them.

“When I heard about the critical blood shortage in the Pittsburgh area, I reached out to my fellow board members. We’re glad to roll up our sleeves, and we hope that donating as a group will raise awareness within our community of the need to give blood,” said Denise Balason, a member of the Hampton school board.

She’s one of six Hampton school board members who have confirmed so far on donating next week, including Jill Hamlin, Bob Shages, Larry Vasko, Matt Jarrell and Joy Midgley.

“Giving blood is such an easy, painless thing to do that means so much to a patient in need. I have been giving since college and I feel like I am paying forward for the day when I may need it,” said Shages.

And for some the need is right now.

Vitalant is contracted to supply blood for hospital locations of both UPMC and Allegheny Health Network, Lane said.

Hospitals need blood for its scheduled patients such as those undergoing chemotherapy or regularly scheduled surgeries. But then, they also need it for any traumas and emergencies that are unpredictable, she said.

Hospitals also keep an emergency reserve, she said.

Vitalant needs 600 units, which is equivalent to approximately 600 pints of blood, every single day to meet the above needs, Lane said. Right now, they have less than 300 units for this need.

One of seven people entering a hospital needs blood but only 10% of the eligible population donates, according to the vitalant.org, which serves 40 states.

What is important is to give the blood now and not waiting for a trauma, as it takes at least 48 hours to process and test it. For example, she said when the Tree of Life tragedy happened in 2018, people graciously came to donate blood shortly afterward.

While that donated blood was definitely useful, it was the blood donations made the week prior and on reserve that helped the Tree of Life victims. In short, it’s best not to wait for an emergency or traumatic event to happen before donating, she said.

“That’s why we need a healthy supply of blood in case of an emergency,” she said.

Especially in need is Type O negative blood. Lane said this is because it is a universal blood type that anyone can accept. For instance, if a baby is born with a medical emergency who immediately needs blood, there isn’t time to test for blood type, which makes O negative important.

There is actually two ways to donate at the drive. A whole blood drive takes about 10 to 12 minutes and is what most are familiar with. Platelets and plasma is actually separated out of the blood, which is used separately for some patients, Lane said.

There’s also a newer blood donor opportunity called automated blood donation. Blood is withdrawn from one small needle, sending to a machine that separates and collects red blood cells, platelets or plasma and safely returns the remaining components back to the donor, according to the Vitalant website.

Lane said these community events are great because “People support each other at a blood drive when you’re there with people you know,” she said.

Those wishing to donate should weigh at least 110 pounds and be 16 years of age. If 16, a permission slip must be completed.

Whole blood donors should drink a lot of water prior to their withdraw because a vein of a well-hydrated person is easier to access.

Someone who recently got a tattoo in Pennsylvania must wait a year before donating because Pennsylvania does not regulate its tattoo parlors, said Lane. Those done in other states are OK, since they are usually regulated.

Lane also suggest that those wanting to do the automated blood donation may want to call ahead or schedule online to make sure they don’t have a long wait prior to their event.

Lane said if blood is low then they actually have to travel to other cities, and that’s not the Pittsburgh spirit.

“We have such a Pittsburgh pride. Let’s not go to other cities. Let’s not go to Cleveland,” she said.

Hamlin is also looking forward to helping out.

“Coordinating these blood drives is a longstanding tradition in our high school community,” according to Hamlin. “The continued success of these drives is directly related to the participation of our high school students, faculty and parent teacher organizations. We are fortunate to live in a community where service like this is deemed important, and as board members are happy to support this effort by donating.”

Balason summed it up perfectly by saying, “We bleed for Hampton.”

For more information, or to schedule a donation, call 877-258-4825 or visit vitalant.org and search with group code HS010029. Donate at any Vitalant blood donation location using the HS010029 group code and Hampton High School will receive credit for the donation, according to the HTSD website.