[Helping Hands] Blood relative

Ken Bombalicki doesn’t consider himself a hero. The veteran blood donor says he has it easy, just lying back and relaxing while he
contributes whole blood or platelets to the American Red Cross blood bank.

“Sometimes it’s easier to give than to receive. Donating blood is one of those times,” says the 72-year-old Parma resident, who’s given a total of 61 gallons throughout 488 donation sessions dating back to the early 1950s. “I believe most people in their hearts want to help others, but they say they don’t know how or don’t have the time. Donating blood is one way they can help. I feel good donating –– it’s the right thing to do.”

Although approximately 38 percent of the population is eligible to donate blood, less than 5 percent do it, says Christy Chapman, regional
communications manager for the American Red Cross of Greater Cleveland. The organization covers 19 northern Ohio counties, serves 57 hospitals and must collect 900 pints of blood a day to keep up with the demand.

That’s not easy, Chapman adds, given the misconceptions that often prevent people from donating. Here, she dispels four of the most
common ones:

• It will hurt.

"I tell donors that in exchange for a momentary pinch, they are helping to save up to three lives with the pint of blood they are giving,” Chapman says.

• Donors faint, bruise easily or get sick.

“The vast majority of people have no problems,” Chapman says. “Any slight bleeding at the site where the needle breaks the skin is easily stopped. We don’t want people to run a marathon after they donate blood, but they can spend time resting here afterward, and driving home is not usually a problem.”

• The procedure is not safe.

“Not true,” says Chapman. “Only sterile and disposable equipment is used, and all blood is screened before it is given to patients. The blood supply is safer than it has ever been.”

• Once ineligible, always ineligible.

“Just because someone didn’t qualify as a donor in the past, doesn’t mean they can’t help now,” Chapman says. Potential donors participate in a mini-health screening, in which their blood pressure, iron count and temperature are taken. Medications and recent surgeries are also noted. Donors can give blood every 56 days, and the body replenishes the pint taken within eight weeks.

The American Red Cross has fixed donation sites in downtown Cleveland, Akron, Avon and Parma. Ohio’s largest one-day, single-site blood drive will be held on February 10 from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., at Landerhaven in Mayfield Heights. Donors must be at least 17 years old, weigh at least 110 pounds and be in general good health.

Although there is no age limit, a valid ID is required.

Last year the American Red Cross collected 769 pints during the February marathon.

For information, call (800) 448-3543, or visit www.redcrossdonor.org.

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