For some people, donating blood can be an easy choice, but for Jonathan Yao, a second year student studying nursing, it was not easy at all. He knew he would need to overcome his fear of needles one way or another, so when he saw that Bloodworks Northwest came to campus he realized the opportunity to overcome his fear was here.
When he met the friendly staff of Bloodworks Northwest, his fears began to subside. Cecily Nagel, a Donor Resources Representative for Bloodworks Northwest, wants to thank Seattle Pacific University. “We really could not do this without you,” she said.
“Since 1988, our records show that there have been 7,250 SPU donors who have helped save patients’ lives,” Nagel said
The blue Bloodworks Northwest bus parked on Third Avenue West, alongside Tiffany Loop, and opened for donations. While this was only Nagel’s second year working with SPU, her gratitude for SPU was evident.
One donation of blood can save up to three lives, the donation being separated into platelets, red blood cells, and plasma.
The platelets go to patients suffering from cancer and those going through intense surgery. Over 75 percent of all blood types can donate towards this need, including blood types A-positive, B-positive and O-positive.
The population who can donate platelets is large, but platelets only last five days. Therefore the need is constant.
The second part of a blood donation is the red blood cell portion.
Red blood cells in positive blood types contains an Rh protein that is lacking in negative blood types. If a person’s blood does not typically contain the protein, introducing it through a blood transfusion can be dangerous.
Negative blood types make up about 17 percent of the population, and the amount of donated blood follows a similar pattern. This is significant since negative blood types can donate to positive blood types, but not vice versa, causing negative blood types to be in much higher demand.
Plasma, which transports blood cells and controls bleeding, is the third part of a donation. Though a vital part of donating, only 4 percent of the population qualify to donate plasma, including those with blood types AB+ and AB-.
“Imagine. If one pint can save three lives,” Nagel said, “that means SPU donors have helped save the lives of over 21,750 patients in our community since 1988.”
SPU donations have helped supply up to 91 hospitals, from Western Washington all the way to Eugene, Oregon, demonstrating the high demand for donations. Nagel’s goal for her community donation centers is to get 800 donations everyday, and that’s not a steep request, Nagel says. SPU helps with about 30 of those donations per blood drive.
Between Western Washington and Oregon, there are only twelve donation centers, and with the demand for blood from 90 local hospitals, each donation is valuable. This is why there are 4,300 blood drives held each year to collect blood in various locations, including from the SPU campus.
“Every week, Bloodworks Northwest collects about 4,500 blood donations. That’s enough donors to fill 14 Boeing 747s,” Nagel explained.
“But only 8 percent of people who are eligible donate blood,” said Nagel.
For blood banks like Nagel’s, the importance in keeping donors coming is high. Especially in the wake of disasters, like the hurricanes that hit Florida or the Las Vegas shooting, blood donations need to be on the shelf and ready to serve beforehand.
Andria Gonzales, a fifth-year education major and second-time donor, says she understands that her O-Positive blood type is important to give because it can go to many different patients.
“I have close friends who have had blood cancer, and I’ve always felt that this is my chance to make a change,” Gonzales said.
Gonzales knows that it can be uncomfortable to donate blood, but she is confident in donating with Bloodworks Northwest, stating, “They take care of you. They make sure you will be okay once you leave, but recommend that you drink lots of water and have a good meal.”
SPU’s three-decade relationship with Bloodworks Northwest has helped change 21,750 local lives. In the end, “It’s just one pinch, you will be fine,” Gonzales said.