Worldwide need for blood highlighted

Each month, the Memorial Health System needs 300 units of blood for surgery and other lifesaving procedures.

But each month, they collect only 200 units from donors, and in the summer that number can be even lower.

Today is World Blood Donor Day, an annual event established by the World Health Organization (WHO) to focus on the need for voluntary blood donations in countries around the globe.

According to WHO, the U.S. is among only 60 countries worldwide that receive nearly 100 percent of its blood supply from volunteer donors. The other 40 percent still rely on family members to donate blood when it’s needed, or they pay citizens for their blood.

Locally Marietta Memorial Hospital’s Blood Bank, one of only two independent hospital-based blood banks in Ohio, is participating in today’s world blood donor event.

“This is our third year marking World Blood Donor Day. It’s a day that people can just come in and donate at the hospital without making an appointment,” said Shelly Baylor, blood bank supervisor at MMH.

She said the MMH Bloodmobile will be parked near the hospital cafeteria from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. to accept blood donations.

The event, held on Flag Day every year, comes at a good time for the blood bank which is highly reliant on local donations for its monthly blood supply.

“Our average need is for around 300 units each month, and we’re currently collecting about 200 units monthly,” Baylor said. “We have to buy the other 100 units to make up for that lack of donations. And everything we collect supplies MMH and Selby General Hospital.”

Blood donations often drop off during the summer months due to donors taking vacations or becoming involved in warm-weather activities that may interfere with their regular blood contributions, she said.

“The Fourth of July is especially a difficult week, so we’ll open our blood donor center near Walmart on Pike Street to walk-in donors between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. that week to help keep the blood supply up,” Baylor said.

She said the current blood supply is adequate, but the blood bank is always encouraging more people to give blood which may be used in a variety of applications, including for surgery and cancer patients as well as when needed in the emergency department.

“The blood we collect doesn’t sit around for long,” Baylor said.

Camden Clark Memorial Hospital spokesman Tim Brunicardi said blood supplies there have also been stable recently.

“We’re in really good shape now,” he said. “We normally use about 650 units per month, and do several regular blood drives every year here at the hospital. Donations are how we’re able to survive, so we always encourage everyone to give blood.”

On Thursday the MMH Bloodmobile was parked in the lot next to the Lafayette Hotel in Marietta.

“This is our first time here-we’re usually located on Front Street at the National Guard Armory-but we’ve had six donors during our first hour here. That’s a good turnout, and more are coming in.” said bloodmobile driver and assistant Dick Saltzwedel.

Lowell resident Bob Kubota donated at the bloodmobile Thursday.

“I just do it for the free cookies,” he joked. “Usually I donate every month when the bloodmobile comes to Lowell, but I drove into Marietta today to give blood.”

Kubota, who has donated a total of 6 gallons of the life-giving substance to date, said giving blood has become a regular habit for him and he encourages other area residents to do the same.

“We had one donor here last week who has given more than 40 pints of blood over the years-and that’s very special,” said Gloria Layne, one of the bloodmobile’s donor collection specialists.

Fellow specialist Debra Sayres said giving blood helps more than one person.

“Every bag of blood you’re giving saves up to three lives,” she said.

Layne explained that each 1-pint bag provides life-saving plasma, platelets and packed red cells for local patients.

Baylor said events like World Blood Donation Day are also important because they not only raise awareness of the need for blood, but they encourage younger people to get involved and become donors.

“A few years ago the age limit for donating blood was lowered to 16, and during the school year we often visit area high schools where we have student donors, but now that school’s out we don’t have that resource,” she said. “And we want to continue to encourage young people to become donors because many of our most faithful donors are getting older and we’ll need younger donors to take their place.”