Blood bank, too, prepares for Dem convention
By Stephanie Clary
The Bonfils Blood Center took donations outside the State Capitol building Monday, July 28, and announced it is increasing its efforts to make sure enough blood is on hand during the Democratic National Convention.
Jessica Maitland, vice president of marketing and community operations for Bonfils, said blood donation usually declines during the summer. But with 50,000 extra people expected in town Aug. 25-28, she noted, the blood bank wants to make sure it can handle any emergency.
“We’re not concerned that we won’t have enough blood, but we are encouraging the public to come out and give,” she said.
Each week, Maitland said, more than 4,000 donations have to be collected to ensure there are no shortages, and the center hasn’t had a shortage in 10 years.
Some 30 people walked up to the Bonfils bus parked in the Capitol lot and offered to give blood on Monday, and a few were declined.
There are a variety of reasons volunteers are turned away. They might be on certain medications, or too thin or have recently been tattooed.
Rep. Sara Gagliard, D-Arvada, is drafting a bill that would loosen up one of the restrictions. She announced that in January, she’ll offer legislation to lower Colorado’s age requirement to donate blood to 16-years-old.
Gagliardi is seeking re-election in House District 27.
“High school students are already extremely active when it comes to mobilizing blood drives and donating,” she said, adding that 6,000 pints were donated by eligible high school seniors in 2006-2007.
Gagliardi said 28 states allow 16-year-olds to donate.
Gagliardi, who is also a licensed practical nurse, said she plans to use Arizona’s new law as a guideline. The legislation passed earlier this year allows 16-year-olds to donate with parental consent.
She said the Bonfils Blood Center estimates about 2,600 more pints of blood would become available each year if 16-year-olds were eligible. Gagliardi added that states with lower age requirements have seen a 30 percent increase in donations at high school blood drives.
Maitland also favors lowering Colorado’s age requirement.
“Our typical donor is in the baby boomer age range,” she said, noting that donors are more likely to “start a lifelong habit” if they give blood when they’re young.
Maitland estimates that younger donors provide about 9 percent of the nation’s blood supply.
However, youthful, first-time donors can face complications, according to a study in the May The Journal of the American Medical Association. The 2006 study documented the reactions of 16- and 17-year-old donors in nine American Red Cross regions and found they were more likely to experience lightheadedness, bruising, fainting or similar complications after giving blood.
The study also found that 16-year-olds who had some sort of complication were less likely to give blood again within a year than those whose experience went smoothly.
Dr. Ed Orsini, medical director of the blood bank at The Children’s Hospital in Denver, said he has noticed that teenagers are more likely to faint when giving blood than adults are.
However, he suggests that blood banks that anticipate problems with younger donors should be able to stave them off.
The Children’s Hospital, Orsini said, already draws blood from minors with parental consent if he or she is donating to a family member. There is also a program offering the opportunity for children undergoing surgery to have blood drawn for their own use.
“For years we’ve been drawing underage donors in special circumstances,” he said.
Orsini said with the loss of donors due to medical conditions, he is in favor of lowering Colorado’s age requirement. He added that the Food and Drug Administration and the AABB (formerly the American Association of Blood Banks) work together to set standards for blood donation, and have generally considered it acceptable for 16-year-olds to donate with parental consent.
“This would be good. If there is a movement to actually make it a formal act (in Colorado), that would be a good thing,” he said.
Mallory Hicks, 17, donated blood at the Bonfils bus for the first time on Monday.
“I was just fine,” she said. “As soon as I was done, I just hung out at the 16th Street Mall.”
Last year, Hicks worked with Bonfils to plan a blood drive at her high school, Denver Lutheran, but couldn’t donate because she was too young. She said encouraging others to give when she couldn’t made her feel “kind of hypocritical.”
Gagliardi greeted Hicks at the bus to make sure the soon-to-be senior had eaten breakfast before getting blood drawn.
Hicks reciprocated the support by approving Gagliardi’s legislation plans.
“This initiative that Representative Gagliardi is introducing is an awesome thing,” Hicks said, noting that the process “is really easy. It doesn’t take much time.”
Information on the center’s upcoming blood drives can be found at www.bonfils.org.