'An easy way to do something good': More blood donors are needed on the Central and South Coasts
A recent change to regulations means more donors are eligible to come forward.
Here at Vitalant in Ventura, blood donors arrive to be pre-screened for a donation appointment. I’m one of them.
In a pre-screening with Mark Erickson – the donor care lead and Registered Nurse, I’m asked a series of questions about my lifestyle and screened for being healthy enough to have blood drawn.
There’s currently a critical shortage of blood supplies, and until very recently, I – along with thousands of others, would have failed the screening because one of the questions asks whether you lived in the UK in the 1980s, as a screening for the risk of CJD – Mad Cow disease – but this was recently changed.
So, for the first time, I - and thousands of others - are now eligible to give blood in the United States.
I’m led to a very comfortable cream chair, and given a ball to squeeze. A needle is inserted into my left arm and my blood is drawn into a tube and bag.
"We have just two days supply on hand of type O [blood]," Susan Noone, regional director for Vitalant Health told me. "That's particularly important for traumas and emergencies as type O is the type we reach for when we don't know a recipients' blood type."
She says the lifting of the restrictions will hopefully provide a much needed boost to donations, at a time when it’s so critically needed.
"The FDA recently changed the criteria for folks who have a geographic risk for variant CJD. They deemed the risk to be negligible. I think it's going to make a big difference, not only for those folks who enjoy traveling but also for our military personnel who have been in the UK and their families as well," said Noone.
My blood will be tested at a facility in Arizona, and shipped out to a patient in need within around two days.
"It's an easy way to do something good," says Eileen Rascon, who is donating in the next chair.
She donates regularly alongside her husband Edward, a routine which they've been doing for over 40 years.
"It's not date night but we always come together," Edwards said.
And donor Beverly Myers knows why she does it — to help premature babies.
"I have O Negative blood which is very important and its CRV negative which allows me to give to preemies. That's why I'm here...for the preemies," said Myers.
There’s 15 minutes to sit and wait after donating, and an opportunity to tuck into a cookie or some almonds and, when I leave, my blood will start its own journey, to help someone in need.