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Hospital employees step up as blood donors

| November 29, 2005 11:00 PM

St. John's Lutheran Hospital employees are being praised as "holiday heroes" for their participation in an upcoming Red Cross blood drive.

The collection scheduled for Dec. 1 is especially for St. John's employees and is in addition to the regular community blood drives co-sponsored by the Rotary Club and Veterans of Foreign Wars and held every eight weeks at the VFW community hall. The drive is the brainchild of St. John's chief executive officer Bill Patten, said hospital spokesperson K.C. Hoyer.

"These are new fresh ideas from the new kid on the block," Hoyer said.

Inviting the Red Cross to collect at the hospital will facilitate donations from St. John's employees who might otherwise have a hard time scheduling an appointment to give blood, Hoyer said.

Donations typically go down during the holiday season while the need for blood does not, said American Red Cross donor recruitment representative Sandy Mundahl of Kalispell. She expressed gratitude to the hospital for sponsoring its first-ever blood drive at such a critical time of year.

"To do one during the holidays is just wonderful," she said. "In our words they are holiday heroes."

The target for the drive is 25 pints of blood. Appointments have been scheduled with 30 hospital employees, each of whom can donate one pint.

According to Red Cross statistics, 65 percent of the population is eligible to donate blood while only 5 percent actually give.

"Where's the other 60 percent?" Mundahl said. "That's what we're after."

People who donate once are encouraged to come back another time, Mundahl said. Those who come back a second or third time usually become a lifetime donor, she said.

Contrary to what many people think, high blood pressure, diabetes and high cholesterol don't always rule someone out as a donor, Mundahl said. Those conditions don't necessarily stand in the way of giving blood if they are kept in check by medication.

Anyone returning from Iraq or a malaria risk area is deferred from donating for 12 months, Mundahl said.

To donate, a person must be 18 years old (or 17 with parental permission), weigh at least 110 pounds and be in good health.

Because a pint of blood is divided into plasma, platelets and red blood cells, a single donation can help save three lives, Mundahl said. Red blood cells have the longest shelf life at 42 days, while plasma lasts two weeks and platelets just five days.

The Red Cross always meets local needs first before allowing blood to be distributed at the state or regional level, Mundahl said.