Donors sought for blood drive

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— The people who showed up to give blood Oct. 3 at the Steamboat Springs Airport arrived early and stayed late.

They came with or without appointments, and their determination to give something tangible to strangers in the East surprised the people who regularly work with blood donors.

"The response was overwhelming," blood drive coordinator Terry Sherrill said.

But as time has distanced people from the images of Sept. 11, interest in giving blood the second time around has waned.

With the Dec. 12 blood drive only a few days away, Sherrill said half of the available appointments have not been filled even though the need for blood today remains just as pressing as it was two months ago, she said.

The holidays pose a critical time for blood banks, Sherrill said, as the likelihood of accidents increases with the higher volume of holiday travelers.

Sherrill, a member of the Yampa Valley Regional Hospital auxiliary, coordinates the blood drives every other month in Steamboat Springs with Bonfils Blood Bank of the Lowery Center in Aurora.

About 300 people turned out in October to give about 200 units of blood, with appointments booked two weeks in advance, she said.

"My phone was ringing off the hook," Sherrill said. "It's not doing it this time."

Only 100 people have called her to make an appointment to give blood between 12:30 and

6 p.m. Tuesday at the airport.

Donors immediately filled all the first hour appointments, but the remainder of the day remains open to interested donors, she said.

"I'll try to get anyone in there," Sherrill said.

The holidays often compete with potential donors' time and energy to participate in another blood drive, said Darcy Coale, an auxiliary member and blood drive volunteer.

"Obviously, we got a huge response" following Sept. 11, she said. "But we need to emphasize that aside from extraordinary events, we need to always be conscious that there is the need for blood."

Coale said she did not doubt Steamboat residents' commitment to turn out Tuesday to give blood, albeit at the last minute this time.

"Steamboat has always been a very giving community," she said. "The people who come to give are very giving people."

In comparison to other communities in the state, Steamboat Springs overwhelmingly supports its blood drives, Bonfils communications manager Bryan Chavez said.

Public response in the past to blood drives in the wake of national crises tends to soar but quickly fade, he said. The response to the country's most recent crisis, however, seems to rebut that trend, he said.

"Historically, when a crisis heightens awareness about blood drives, it tends to drop off, but we've seen a little more consistency with this one," he said.

Chavez encouraged donors to make appointments to avoid the frustration at October's blood drive when several walk-ins were turned away because the appointment schedule was full.

"It allows us to better manage the amount of blood coming in," he said. "The core of it is so we don't collect too much blood."

Bonfils depends on the generosity of communities to give blood, but the nonprofit blood center does not wish to take any more than need demands, Chavez said.

Blood older than 42 days cannot be used for patients, and collecting more than what can be managed within that time frame ultimately hurts blood supplies.

Bonfils did ship some of its blood supply outside Colorado to meet needs in the East, Chavez said, but it looks to first meet needs within the state.

"We take our role as Colorado's blood provider very seriously," he said.

As the winter months exhaust blood supplies, Chavez said, veteran and first-time donors should know their gift is just as vital as in September, if not more.

"We do see a decline, so we really have to make a push in the winter," he said.

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