Only about 5% of the population are regular blood donors. For those few volunteers to keep up with the demand is a never-ending struggle. And attracting new donors is no easy task. With the summer in full swing, right now it's critically important to consider becoming a blood donor. Every day there is a need, but during this season chock full of family vacations the well of able blood donors starts to dry up.
"I think the misconception is that people assume there is going to be blood products available all the time." said Carmelle Miller, the lab director at the Avera Heart Hospital.
Blood donors are the lifeline of every hospital. Whether it's in a surgery or an emergency, blood and the other products of donation can go quickly.
"In a month we can go through 100 to 150 units of blood and maybe 50 to 75 units of platelets." said Miller.
To do his part to help keep up with the demand, Jim Hitchcock has been a regular blood donor for the past 35 years. Working at the Avera Heart Hospital, everyday is a reminder to the importance of blood donation but it was a relative's close encounter that put things into perspective.
"A member of my wife's family had surgery and the surgery went bad so he needed a lot of blood fast so it was a good thing that the blood bank was there or else he wouldn't have survived." said Hitchcock, a Bio Med Tech at the Avera Heart Hospital.
Every eight weeks, the man known as "Hitch" is hitched up to a machine that will extract and deliver a unit of his lifesaving blood to those who need it most.
"When you go to donate you give a unit of blood, you also give a single dose of platelets, and FFP which is fresh frozen plasma. So you could potentially save three lives with one donation." said Miller.
One challenge for hospital lab is that different blood products come with different expiration dates. Take platelets for example, which help your blood clot when you're bleeding, they are only good for five days after donation. So during the summer holidays a steady stream of donors is essential.
"If you don't have somebody coming in to donate on Friday by Tuesday coming back from a holiday weekend you may not have the supplies that you need to meet the demands of the patients." said Miller.
There's no simple way to donate blood and needles aren't high on anyone's list, but don't let a short period of discomfort keep you from at least giving it a try.
"You know if you've never done it before, get a friend who's never done it before go together. I guarantee you both will come out and say it wasn't a big deal at all and you are helping a lot of people." said Hitchcock.
When you get your driver's license, you are given the choice of becoming an organ donor but you can just as easily become a regular blood donor. It's a lifesaving impact you can give someone immediately and do it over and over again every 56 days. The community blood bank is located at Avera McKennan Hospital and the Blood Mobile makes scheduled stops around the area. For a list of exact dates and location click here. For more information about blood donation just call 877-at-avera