By Master Sgt. Elizabeth Holliker, Public Affairs
/ Published September 14, 2010
Swanton -- "As members of the National Guard, we must be prepared to meet the needs of our citizens," said Col. Mark E. Bartman, 180th Fighter Wing commander. "Anytime, anywhere."
On Sept. 8, members of the 180th Fighter Wing stood up to that mission by hosting a mobile blood drive in the unit's aerospace dining facility. The drive, supporting the American Red Cross, aimed to help ensure an adequate blood supply for local area hospitals.
The Western Lake Erie Region supports 23 area hospitals in 11 counties in Northwest Ohio and Southern Michigan. Three hundred units of blood are needed daily to support this region and every donation counts.
The 180th began hosting mobile blood drives in 2004, holding three drives each year, collecting anywhere from 25-40 units of blood each drive. During the Sept. 8 drive, 29 unit members donated, along with two soldiers from the 983rd Army Engineering Reserve unit in Monclova, and one member of the Port Authority, totaling 32 units of blood.
Each time the 180th FW hosts a blood drive, a local mobile Red Cross team of five to seven staff members bring everything they need for a successful drive, even snacks and drinks for the donors. This small team works together to walk donors through the four-step donation process. They register donors and complete health histories and physicals to ensure donors are fit and qualified for donation, collect about one pint of blood from each donor, label and bar code each donors blood and records, and store and transport all collected blood to a Red Cross center where the blood will be processed, tested and stored until distribution.
"For every unit of blood collected, up to three lives may be saved," said Mrs. Kerri Rochelle, Western Lake Erie Region's senior donor recruitment representative. "Since 2004, the 180th has collected 438 units of blood."
When members of the 180th FW donate, they not only get the satisfaction of meeting the needs of our local community in our homeland, they also get the satisfaction of knowing that donating blood is another opportunity that may save a life, or two, or three. To date, the 180th may have contributed in saving over 1,000 lives.
"The support the airmen of the 180th FW provide to the local Red Cross chapters and the larger Northwest Ohio area is inextricably tied to our minuteman heritage," said Bartman.
On a larger scale, every two seconds, someone in the U.S. needs blood and more than 38,000 units of blood are needed daily to meet the demands. Eighty percent of all blood donations are collected from mobile blood drives set up at locations like the 180th.
Only 65% of the American population is eligible to donate," said Rochelle. "Of that 65%, only about 5% actually donate."
Though mobile blood drives collect 80% of the nation's donated blood supply, they are not able to support all types of donations. Of the six types of blood donations needed by the Red Cross, the blood drive at the 180th supported two of these types, whole blood and double red cells.
Whole blood, donated by the pint, is the most common type of donation and contains red and white blood cells, platelets and plasma. Donors can give whole blood every 56 days, or six times a year. Though it only takes about ten minutes to actually donate can collect the blood, the entire process, from registration to refreshments, takes about an hour. An hour of your time, six times a year could save up to 36 lives.
Staff Sgt. Tony Unum, a financial management systems technician at the 180th FW said he is "grateful that I am able to help others without asking anything in return." Staff Sgt. Unum has donated over two gallons, or 16 pints, of whole blood over the years.
Because red blood cells are the most frequently used blood component and are needed for blood transfusions of almost every blood type, double red donations allow donors to donate two units of red blood cells only, per donation. During a double red donation, blood is drawn from one arm and channeled through a machine that separates and collects two units of red blood cells and returns all other blood components back to the donor through the same arm.
"By donating double red blood, my blood donation can be used by more patients requiring transfusions. As explained to me red blood cells are the most frequently used blood component and are needed by almost every type of patient requiring transfusion. I met the requirements needed being an O positive donor. This is the first time I have donated in this manner, said Tech. Sgt. Robert Guthrie, F-16 Jet Engine Mechanic.
Blood and the components within blood cannot be manufactured, donations are necessary to meet local and national demands. Donating is fairly quick and painless. Donors can begin donating at the age of 16, with parental consent. Donors must be between 110 and 350 pounds and be in good health.
Giving a little of your time a few times a year in order to give such a precious gift will not only give you the satisfaction of helping others, it may also give someone in need the priceless gift of life.
The 180th Fighter Wing is one of two military organizations in the Western Lake Erie region that host mobile blood drives.