SPRINGFIELD — “Blood is the most precious gift that anyone can give to another person: the gift of life. A decision to donate your blood can save a life, or even several if your blood is separated into its components — red cells, platelets, and plasma.”
Those are the words of the World Health Organization, which, along with Baystate Health and other organizations worldwide, is celebrating National Blood Donor Month in January.
“The bad weather, along with myriad illnesses during the winter months, makes collecting enough blood a challenge to meet the critical needs of patients. Held every January since 1970, Blood Donor Month serves as a reminder of the constant need for blood with the goal of increasing blood and platelet donations during one of the most difficult times of the year,” said Amy Osgood, Baystate Health’s blood-donor recruiter. “And at this moment, we have an especially high need for platelet donations.”
Each year at Baystate Health, more than 6,300 patients receive more than 19,000 transfusions of blood products.
“At Baystate Health, 100% of all blood and platelet donations made to our Blood Donor Program are used locally in Western Massachusetts,” Osgood said.
Blood donors have two options to donate blood at Baystate Health. Although the American Red Cross recently suspended its local bloodmobile operations, Baystate continues to serve the blood needs of the community with its traveling bloodmobile.
Blood donations can also be made at Baystate’s Blood Donor Center located on the first floor of the hospital’s Daly Building. Hours are Monday from 8 a.m. to noon; Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday from noon to 8 p.m.; Friday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.; and Sunday from 8 a.m. to noon.
An average blood donation takes about 10-12 minutes. The entire process, from arrival to departure, takes less than an hour. Donors must be at least age 17, weigh at least 110 pounds, and be in good health. New donors will be asked to provide a photo ID.
Platelets are important in the control of bleeding and are generally used in patients with leukemia and other forms of cancer, open-heart surgery patients, transplant patients, and some trauma patients. Since they must be used within five days, maintaining an adequate supply is always a challenge. Baystate’s Blood Donor Center has state-of-the-art plateletpheresis machines called Trimas that are faster, provide a better end product, and use only one needle.
Whole blood can be donated every 56 days and up to six times each year. Platelet donors, who take part in apheresis, can donate as frequently as every two weeks, or 24 times per year.
Donors must complete a pre-donation questionnaire each time they donate blood. This is required by the FDA to help ensure individuals are safe to donate. Donors may complete their questionnaire on their smartphone or computer prior to visiting the donor center or bloodmobile. The questionnaire, however, must be completed on the same day that the donor intends to donate. Access to the pre-donation questionnaire is available by clicking here.
To thank donors after giving blood or platelets, they can choose from a variety of gifts throughout the year, such as tickets to the Big E or Six Flags New England and Dunkin’ Donuts or Big Y gift cards.
Any organization or business looking to host the Baystate Health Blood Donor Mobile can call Osgood at (413) 322-4125. To make an appointment at the Blood Donor Center, call (413) 794-4600. For more information, and to see where the bloodmobile will be throughout Western Mass., visit baystatehealth.org/services/blood-donor.