BANGOR, Maine – Wristbands good for unlimited rides at the Bangor State Fair proved a major incentive this week for area blood donors, including many who rolled up their sleeves for the first time.
The wristband giveaway promotion drew more than 220 people to the American Red Cross donor center at 900B Hammond St., according to Trudy Darling, marketing and media account executive.
In fact, the two-day promotion on Thursday and Friday almost quadrupled the number of donors who usually show up at the Red Cross on a typical weekday.
Each donor, as well as some of the Red Cross volunteers, received a wristband worth $20.
“Our goal for a Thursday is 30 donors,” Darling said. On the first day of the wristband promotion, 140 people were screened to give blood. “We ended up with 106 productive units of blood,” Darling said.
Potential donors undergo a cursory physical exam and must fill out a detailed questionnaire to ensure they meet Red Cross criteria for giving blood. People are not allowed to donate, for instance, if they are taking certain medications such as blood thinners or antibiotics.
The center was so swamped with potential donors Thursday that appointments were taken for Friday when another 81 people were screened and 69 pints of blood were collected. Several potential donors had to be turned away Friday because the center didn’ t have the staff to accommodate them.
“We didn’ t anticipate the demand,” acknowledged Darling. “We had only staffed the center for 50 donors on Friday to begin with.”
She was very pleased with the results of the wristband giveaway sponsored by the Bangor Civic Center.
“What we found out was that a lot of people were first-time donors,” she said. “It was extremely successful. We hope to run the same promotion next year.”
Among those who gave blood during the promotion were Ashley Andrews, 21, of Kenduskeag and Michael Scott, 20, of Orono.
“We’ ve done it many times,” Andrews said, adding that she and Scott have been blood donors since they turned 17.
They usually donate every sixth months, Andrews said.
“It’ s become a kind of ritual for us. I like knowing that I’ m saving lives, and God only knows someday I might need a blood transfusion,” Andrews said.
Scott agreed: “It’ s just knowing that I’ m helping people.”
Donating blood does save lives, Darling said. Nationally, blood is transfused every 2 seconds.
“You don’ t know [how important] it is until it affects you,” said Darling, whose father is a cancer survivor and required transfusion of whole blood and platelets.
Ideally, the Red Cross would like to be able to maintain a seven-day supply for the 96 Maine hospitals to which it provides blood, Darling said. In order to gather a one-day supply, the Red Cross must collect 300 units.
Once it is drawn, blood collected by the Red Cross undergoes rigorous testing to ensure it is suitable for transfusion, Darling said.
“It goes through a huge, huge process of testing — more than what the [U.S. Food and Drug Administration] regulations require,” she said.
Every night, blood donated by Mainers is driven to a Red Cross testing facility in Dedham, Mass. Blood that is deemed free of contamination is returned to Maine, where it is distributed to hospitals within 48 hours of being collected, Darling said.
If current donors “donated just one more time a year, we would never have a shortage of blood,” she said.
In order to give blood to the American Red Cross, potential donors must
- Be at least 17 years old.
- Weigh at least 110 pounds.
- Be in fairly good health.
In addition, donors can give blood only once every 56 days.
For information about donating blood, call the Red Cross at 800-GIVE-LIFE or the Red Cross Blood Services office in Bangor at 941-2900. For information about the Pine Tree Chapter, visit its Web site at www.pinetree.redcross.org.
Upcoming blood drives
Following is a list of some of the Red Cross Pine Tree Chapter’ s upcoming blood drives and promotions:
- Through the end of July, the Red Cross will give away Red Sox T-shirts to donors.
- On July 31, the chapter will hold a drawing for two $50 gasoline cards.
- During the first two weeks of August, each donor will receive one of the 400 bowling tickets that Family Fun Bowling Center owner Andy Meucci provided.
- Red Cross blood drives are scheduled for: 1-6 p.m. Tuesday at the Orland Fire Department 1-6 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 6, at the American Legion Hall in Southwest Harbor 8 a.m.-2 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 12, at The Atlantic Oakes conference center in Bar Harbor and 1-6 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 13, at the Morton Avenue Elementary School gym in Dover-Foxcroft.