HURON — With all the uncertainties in the world, particularly now, donating blood is something that forever benefits people and helps save lives every day.
The American Red Cross is hosting a local blood drive from 1 to 6 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 15, at Our Saviors Lutheran Church in Huron.
“We do a blood drive in Huron about every quarter, they’ve been a really good source of sponsoring the blood drive there for us,” noted Patty Brooks Red Cross Executive Director. “What we are doing right now is we are accepting donations of plasma meaning somebody that has tested positive and is recovered from COVID-19 can donate their plasma, which is a part of the whole blood.”
“So in partnership with the FDA we have this initiative called “convalescent plasma,” we collect that and it has certain antibodies in it which can help anybody that is now currently testing positive or that is within the active stage of COVID-19,” Brooks continued. “It actually can provide some potential treatment for those with infections so if someone has recovered then they can certainly sign up and we can help set them up for a donation for that plasma to be given.”
The requirements for donating plasma can be found online at RedCrossBlood.org where those interested may also schedule an appointment. Donors may also call to set up an appointment for Tuesday’s donation station, by calling 1-800-733-2767.
Another step the Red Cross is taking to contribute to the COVID pandemic is the free testing of antibodies when an individual donates blood.
“We have also started something brand new on June 15 and is going to run through the end of the calendar year - any donor of regular whole blood at any of our donor site locations for the Red Cross we will automatically test their blood for the antibodies of COVID-19 which is a free service,” Brooks explained.
Each donor will have an account with the Red Cross where they can view online or through the app if their blood contains the antibodies for the COVID virus.
“That doesn’t change anything that just automatically happens when people donate their blood to the Red Cross,” said Brooks. “Folks want to get tested for antibodies, I know a lot of local stores and convenience locations are offering the testing for a certain fee; Red Cross will do that for free if you donate your blood product, while actually helping save a life by doing so as well.”
Red Cross donor sites currently require masks while on premises.
Huron native and local donor, Chuck Mahowald, has been dedicated to giving blood for most of his life. “You could say I’m positive about blood drives because I am AB positive,” Mahowald stated. “That is my blood type, it’s a rather rare one also called the universal recipient.”
After Mahowald’s first experience of donating while attending college, he was introduced to the importance of giving blood and began giving more regularly later in life after serving in the Air Force.
“I first donated blood when I was in college about 50 years ago, they had a blood drive right there on campus and I gave a couple times then,” Mahowald shared. “Later on when I was in the Air Force I donated a couple times, after that was quite a gap where I just didn’t have the opportunity.”
Mahowald began regular donations after one day when taking a shortcut through the Crossroads hotel in downtown Huron.
“The reason I started again was almost by accident, I was walking through the Crossroads and I saw a sign the American Red Cross were going to be taking blood donations that day right there at the Crossroads,” explained Mahowald. “So I went in - I was able to get in as a walk-in and from there on I donated quite regularly.”
It takes approximately two and a half months for a donor to be able to safely give blood again, which Mahowald encourages the public to do regularly.
“They tell you after each donation when the next time you can donate is,” noted Mahowald. “I think it’s important to get in the regular habit of donating that way it’s easier to do it each time.”
“I never did like needles very much but it’s something you can get used to, they always give you a lot of good snacks afterwards too,” he chuckled.
Donating often for many years, Mahowald has had the opportunity to be a part of many different experiences and one in particular he recalls. “When I was living in the Twin Cities I donated with a friend of mine, the other donor, with the same blood type as mine, was told it was for a baby and they like to match the same blood type when transfusing to a baby.”
After each donation the American Red Cross will follow up with information on when and where blood was used, while each donation approximately extracts one pint of blood.
“They gave me a tally half a year ago at that time I was at one and a half gallons, so that’s 12 pints and is probably more like 16 now,” noted Mahowald.
“Think about the cookies at the end,” is what Mahowald jokingly responded would be his advice to a first time donor. “They are polite, professional, courteous and they will make it as quick and painless as possible,” he added. “Don’t worry they will take care of you.”
It takes approximately 15 minutes to give blood according to Mahowald and is a rewarding way to give back to society especially with the constant dire need for blood donations.
“It is a worthwhile and easy way to donate something to someone who really needs it and they need all the help they can get. I’m just a fellow off the street who’s got red blood,” smiled Mahowald. “It makes you feel better that you have done something to help someone else.”