Students can give blood and save lives at UAA blood drive

A blood donation can mean saving a life. Patients rely on such donations after car accidents, giving birth, anemia or cancer. To aid this need, UAA and the Business Enterprise Institute, or BEI, is hosting a blood drive on Feb. 28 from 10 a.m.-6 p.m. at 1901 Bragaw St.

The blood drive will be held in a LIFEblood mobile blood donation vehicle provided by the Blood Bank of Alaska in the BEI parking lot. This is a mobile blood donation vehicle, fully equipped for the donations.

Westley Dahlgren is the director of Collections & Recruitment at the Blood Bank of Alaska. He said that donors should feel well, hydrated and have a good meal before donating. They should also allow an hour for the donation process. Dahlgren also said that donors should not worry too much about the process of giving blood.

“Donating blood is a simple process. Our dedicated staff conducts a medical survey that is developed by the [Federal Drug Administration] and, if donors qualify, they can donate blood,” Dahlgren said.

The process begins with a donation history form provided by the technician at the mobile blood donation vehicle. Donors are encouraged to register online at the Blood Bank of Alaska website. A valid form of ID is required, such as a driver’s license or state ID. Next, a mini-physical that consists of taking blood pressure, temperature and a hematocrit test is administered. This test will determine the percentage of red blood cells in the patient’s blood through a small finger prick.

After the initial screening, the donation process takes an average of 15 minutes. Donors are recommended to stay 10-15 minutes after the blood draw to see if there are any mild side effects, such as dizziness or feeling faint. Most donations do not experience any side effects, however, according to the Blood Bank of Alaska website.

A little time spent giving blood can have a huge impact on human lives, Dahlgren said.

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“Our ability to provide blood and save lives is directly related to the generosity of our volunteer blood donors, who sacrifice their time to make a difference,” Dahlgren said.

There are four major blood types: A, B, AB and O. Each is either positive or negative. Some types are more common in the general population than others. The most universal blood type is O+, as it is the most common blood type and the most compatible with the other blood types.

Graphic by Michaeline Collins.

While there is a high demand for O+ blood, all blood types are needed. Some situations require a closer blood type match, such as ongoing transfusions of cancer patients, according to The American Cancer Society.

Betty Bang, family nurse practitioner at the Student Health and Counseling Center, echoes the importance of Alaskans donating blood.

“In Alaska, the importance of donation is compounded due to our geography and landscape. When there is a need for blood in Alaska our family, friends and neighbors depend on each other to make sure the supply is available,” Bang said.

A single blood donation can save up to three lives, and blood transfusions are needed every two seconds in the United States, according to the American Red Cross. Only 38% of people are eligible to donate blood, and red blood cells only have a shelf life of 42 days, while platelets have a shelf life of five days.

Dahlgren said that blood can not be manufactured to save lives.

“There is no substitute for blood — the donations made by volunteers are the only viable way to support those in need,” Dahlgren said.

For information on the four different blood types, The American Red Cross has an interactive website highlighting their compatibility with each other. For more information about the blood donation process or additional questions, contact the Blood Bank of Anchorage at their website, bloodbankofanchorage.org, or call (907) 222-5600.