Supplies have reached emergency levels because of 50,000 fewer donations in June than were expected, leaving the Red Cross with half the readily available blood products than it had at this time last year.
Today, from 11:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the Holiday Inn in Oneonta, the local Red Cross is having its annual Communities That Care Blood Drive.
Not everyone can give blood. There are weight restrictions, visits to certain countries, recent tattoos, etc., that will disqualify some people.
Blood from gay people is not accepted, a vestige of the concern over spreading the AIDS virus. Because of much-improved testing of donated blood before it gets to the general population, the Red Cross is re-examining that policy.
There will be a time when we can debate whether the policy should be changed _ it most certainly should be _ but for now, the need is urgent, and those who can donate, most certainly should consider donating a pint.
All blood types are needed, Red Cross officials said, but especially O positive, O negative, B negative and A negative.
It doesn't take much time. Most donors are in and out in less than an hour.
If you give blood regularly, you'll have a donor card that you'll bring with you. If it's your first time, you'll be asked to show your driver's license or two other forms of identification.
You'll be given literature to read. Then they'll take your temperature, check your pulse and blood pressure and ask you a lot of questions, all designed to make sure you are healthy enough to donate and that your blood is safe.
There's a pin prick of one of your fingers to check your hemoglobin level. Once you're cleared to donate, one of your arms will be cleansed and a new sterile needle will be inserted opposite your elbow.
It really doesn't hurt very much. It feels more like a quick pinch than anything else. The folks working there know what they're doing.
The routine donation itself takes about 10 minutes.
If you're giving what's known as a "double red" donation in which a machine separates and collects two units of red cells and then safely returns the remaining blood components, along with some saline, back to you, it generally takes about a half hour or so.
After you're through donating, you'll be offered a free drink and snack, and then you're on your way.
It's all very easy, and when you leave, it will be with the knowledge that not only are you being a good citizen, you're helping someone whose life may well depend on that blood you just donated.
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