Donating blood _” giving the gift of life

One of the best things you could do in your life is to help save someone else's life. There's one way that you can easily do this without any danger to your own life. Today, some patients must postpone medical surgeries because of the lack availability of their blood type. This is why the Blood Bank of Alaska needs your help.

This past year, the Blood Bank has run a number of blood drives at the University of Alaska Anchorage, both at the residence halls and at the Campus Center. Thanks to UAA students, staff, and faculty, 176 units of blood were collected from the 257 people who volunteered in the last three drives.

Here's how it works: After it is donated, each donation is divided into three parts. An individual blood donor can potentially save three lives. According to Gregg Schomaker, Blood Bank of Alaska donor recruitment manager, the increase in student participation has had a direct impact on the lives of 500 Alaskans this year.

“We hope to have that number close to 1,000 when we finish with the Spring Challenge this year,” he said.

The Blood Bank has set up a Spring Challenge between UAA and the University of Alaska Fairbanks to see which campus can collect the most blood during the spring drives. The winning campus will receive free T-shirts for all participants.

In recent years, donations from 18 to 24 year-olds have decreased nationwide. Last year, donations dropped almost 6.5 percent in this age group. The decrease is having a direct impact on the blood supply in the Lower 48. In Alaska, participation by 18 to 24 year-olds has increased due to a combination of new Blood Bank of Alaska programs and increased participation by UAA students and faculty.

“I feel a civic duty as a citizen,” said Daniel Parks, a UAA student. “But also, if I donate blood, and it could help to save someone's life, it will make me feel very satisfied.” Daniel believes that “helping people especially during a blood shortage is the compassionate thing to do.” He knows that it is a safe procedure because the Blood Bank of Alaska's phlebotomists, the people who draw the blood, are well trained.

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Some people are afraid to donate blood, but the procedure is safe for the donor and the recipient, Schomaker said. For each donation, a new sterile needle is used and then discarded. Most people notice a slight pinch when the needle is inserted, but after that they hardly notice anything. After the blood is taken, it goes through a series of tests to make sure that the blood is safe for the receiver.

Not everybody can donate blood. To be eligible to donate, you must be between ages 17 to 72, weigh more than 110 pounds, not have donated blood for 56 days, and be in overall good health. You must also have the desired iron levels for your body.

The Blood Bank of Alaska provides blood and blood products to 26 of the 28 hospitals in the state. To meet the needs of the hospital patients, they need to collect 2,000 pints of blood each month. The Blood Bank collects blood at both the main center at 4000 Laurel Street, near the intersection of Lake Otis Parkway and Tudor Road and at van drives throughout the community. The center is open Monday through Saturday.

In addition to the main center, the Blood Bank accepts donations at an "off-site" blood mobile that is set up at businesses, churches, schools, and community events.

“Donating blood is the only activity that I know of that doesn't cost any money,” Schomaker said. “You can save three lives in less than one hour, and after you finish there are free juice and cookies!”

The UAA Residence Hall drive is scheduled for April 12 and 13. To sign up, please contact the Main Apartment Complex residence advisors, Rebecca at 751-5123 or Thea at 751-7222.