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Blood drives save lives

Winter is ‘critical need’ period

From left, Northern Michigan University Student Alex Hazelgrove donates blood with Becca Highlen, a collections technician with the American Red Cross. Hazelgrove, a freshman at NMU, aims to donate 10 gallons of blood in his lifetime. (Journal photos by Cecilia Brown)

Taking a few minutes to donate blood can make a big difference in the lives of others.

Due to this, area residents a

nd Northern Michigan University students participated in a blood drive held Thursday by the American Red Cross at NMU’s Lydia M. Olson Library.

Sandra Olive, a collection specialist with the American Red Cross, was Thursday’s blood drive leader.

“You can save three lives with one donation, for all of maybe an hour of your time,” she said, noting this is because blood can be separated into three different components — red cells, plasma and platelets — which can all go to different people.

Because of the impact that blood donations can have, Alex Hazelgrove — a freshman accounting major at NMU who donated blood on Thursday — plans to make giving blood a lifelong endeavor.

Boxes holding supplies and records are pictured at an American Red Cross blood drive held at Northern Michigan University’s Lydia M. Olson Library on Thursday.

“My dad always gave blood so I thought, ‘Why not?’ And it’s kind of fun to do,” Hazelgrove said. “I like doing it. I’ve done it once before and I’m trying to get 10 gallons donated in my lifetime.”

Organizers were grateful for Hazelgrove and others who donated blood Thursday, Olive said, noting they were likely to meet their collection goal for the drive.

“Our goal is about 43 units today, so we’re on track to meet our goal,” she said.

It’s particularly important to give blood during the winter season, Olive said, as this is the time when the need for blood is generally most critical.

This is because the winter season generally comes with increased traffic accidents due to winter storms and holiday travel. When winter weather ends up canceling a blood drive, the situation can compound, she said.

“We also get the weather cancellations … where we can’t hold the blood drive because a snowstorm canceled the drive,” Olive said. “So we’re just coming into our critical need time to make sure we have enough blood supply for the winter months.”

For those who would like to donate blood themselves but want to learn more about the process, Olive had a few pieces of information.

“Before you even think about it, make sure that you’ve eaten and you’ve been drinking plenty of fluids before coming in and trying to donate,” she said. “We do a small physical exam when you first come in to make sure you’re healthy enough to donate.”

But what if you don’t know your blood type? This isn’t an impediment to donating, Olive said, as Red Cross personnel can determine your blood type.

“Once you come through and donate through us, the Red Cross will send you a donor card that’ll have your name and information as well as your blood type on that,” she said.

Then there’s the big question about donating blood — is it painful?

While “everyone thinks it’s going to be extremely painful,” Olive said donating blood “does not hurt as bad” as people might think and it only lasts about five to 10 minutes.

Hazelgrove echoed this statement, as in his experience, the blood donation is a “strange feeling” but not painful.

Because people can typically donate blood every eight weeks, the American Red Cross has been visiting NMU to host a blood drive every eight to 10 weeks, Olive said. The entire process generally take about an hour, she said.

To learn more about donating blood and find upcoming blood drives near you, visit www.redcrossblood.org.

Cecilia Brown can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 248.