News: Bleeding for good
Story by Christine Cabalo
MARINE CORPS BASE HAWAII — It took me 6 minutes and 59 seconds to give the most sought after gift this holiday season.
For the first time, I donated a pint of my blood. I did it with the help of the Armed Services Blood Program, which provides needed blood to service members and their families worldwide. Today, they were at Marine Corps Base Hawaii’s base chapel.
“During the holiday season, the blood supply is always low,” said Michelle Lele, Tripler Army Medical Center donor coordinator, Armed Services Blood Program. “Unfortunately, the need for blood doesn't take a break. There are still accident victims, emergency surgeries, births and cancer treatments, all requiring blood and blood products.”
Lele said she hoped to collect 60 units of blood for today’s drive, but I was only the 14th person to donate. Coordinators also take just one pint or unit of blood at a time.
The actual donation time runs from 5 to 10 minutes, with additional time to fill out paperwork, and a quick test to ensure my iron levels were healthy.
I wasn’t sure of what to expect, but I had a list of worries: What if it hurts? What if it makes me too weak? What if I find out I have some horrible disease?
I barely noticed Kolin Koizumi, phlebotomist, Tripler Army Medical Center, gently pricking my skin before realizing my donation session already started. Any lingering doubts I had flew out the window the moment I saw my dark red blood flowing neatly into a plastic bag, knowing it could help someone who really needed it.
“Actually when you donate you can save as many as three lives,” Koizumi said. “We can use three parts of the blood: platelets, plasma and red blood cells.”
Those who benefit from the blood donations firsthand are more than appreciative, said Lt. Col. John Mannle, Staff Judge Advocate, Headquarters Battalion. He was next in line after me and talked about the need for blood overseas, especially during his deployment in Iraq.
“It’s one of the most worthwhile causes to give to,” Mannle said. “We need blood, and it’s a good way to help out if you’re not deployed.”
I still had a long way to go to help out more people than Maj. Jeff Reichman, Marine Corps Base Hawaii current operations officer. He’s donated enough to times to fill up a gallon jug.
“Despite all the excuses, once I did it the first time I just kept up with it,” Reichman said.
Both he and Lele said the process is easy. The Tripler Blood Donor
Center operates three to four mobile blood drives on different military installations a week. This is to ensure it’s convenient and quick, Lele said, especially since not having blood can be a matter of life or death.
“There is no substitute for blood,” she said. “The only way it ends up on the shelves, ready for all these treatments, is when people make conscious efforts to donate.”
For more information about donating your blood, visit the Armed Services Blood Program’s web site: http://www.militaryblood.dod.mil/