Monday Medical: Donating blood easy way to help others

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Janeen Johnsen and Michael Arroyo are committed blood donors. During blood drives at Yampa Valley Medical Center, the two donors together have provided enough blood to save or help more than 400 people. 

Both donors trace their blood donation history back nearly four decades. 

Monday Medical

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"It was easy, and I felt good about it," said Johnsen, who started donating blood as a college student. "It was a donation that I could give that wasn't money, it was just from myself."

Arroyo, who first became a blood donor in the Navy, considers his donations a way of giving back to the community. 

"It only takes one hour of your time. That's not a lot to ask for," he said. 

Johnsen and Arroyo are part of a small army of volunteer blood donors who have helped make Steamboat Springs a top blood contributor among Bonfils Blood Center's many Colorado donation sites. 

Blood drive coordinators at YVMC hope more people — especially young adults — will follow suit, helping replenish blood supplies needed to help trauma victims and individuals who have lost blood during surgery and other medical procedures. 

"There's always a need for blood," said Barb Hughes, co-coordinator of YVMC's blood drives. "Blood is truly a renewable resource."

The next blood drive will be from 12:30 to 6 p.m. Feb. 7 at YVMC. It will be the first of five blood drives there this year.

Bonfils, a nonprofit organization, provides the majority of blood needed by Colorado hospitals and health care facilities. The organization’s partnership with YVMC helps ensure the hospital’s own blood bank has sufficient supplies for patients.

Bonfils needs to collect nearly 3,000 units or pints of blood each week to meet Colorado patients’ needs and maintain blood supply readiness for unforeseen events.

Donated blood is transported to the Bonfils Blood Center in Denver where it undergoes typing and tests for infectious diseases and is separated into its three components: red blood cells, platelets and plasma. It then is packaged and shipped to facilities served by Bonfils, including YVMC. Bonfils also provides blood in national emergencies.

Only about 4 percent of eligible blood donors in Colorado donate blood. Blood donation is a safe and relatively simple process that only takes about an hour.

The process begins with a basic questionnaire. A Bonfils phlebotomist, or person trained to draw blood, then conducts a brief health screening and exam to ensure your safety and the safety of the blood supply. Some factors, such as low body weight, medications and travel to certain countries, may prevent a person from donating blood.

Following a successful screening, you will sit in a reclining chair, where the phlebotomist will draw your blood through an intravenous catheter — a process that takes about 10 to 15 minutes. Free pizza and cookies — generously provided by local businesses — are available to donors afterwards.

“They take such good care of you,” Johnsen said. “It’s easy, it’s comfortable.”

Donating blood is completely safe. Sterile, disposable needles and supplies are used once and are safely discarded after each donation. You cannot get HIV/AIDS or any other disease by donating blood.

A person can donate blood every 56 days. To prepare for blood donation, eat a healthy, low-fat meal within four hours prior to donating. Drink plenty of non-caffeinated fluids before and after donating.

Yampa Valley Medical Center will host additional blood drives 12:30 to 6 p.m. April 10, June 12, Aug. 21 and Nov. 20. Appointments are preferred. Go to http://donor.bonfils.org and enter site code 0234 or call 1-800-365-0006.

This article includes information from Bonfils Blood Center, www.bonfils.org.

Tamera Manzanares writes for Yampa Valley Medical Center. She can be reached at tameramanza@gmail.com.

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