LifeShare Bellow

LifeShare Blood Center Coordinator of Recruiting LaTasha Bellow speaks to the Sulphur Kiwanis Club Wednesday regarding the center’s need for blood donors, especially during summer and the Fourth of July holiday.

While LifeShare Blood Centers are no longer in the blood shortage crisis that created an urgent need last week, the Fourth of July holiday is right around the corner — requiring a stocked blood bank.

According to LaTasha Bellow, Coordinator of Recruiting with LifeShare Blood Center in Lake Charles, there is a bigger need for blood products during the Fourth of July than at any other time of year.

“Right now we have enough blood products on the shelves for about 2.2 days, but that number needs to be above three,” Bellow told the Sulphur Kiwanis Club Wednesday. “Those numbers can change drastically depending on trauma needs.”

Her message to the Lake Area — don’t wait to donate.

Blood products take at least 24 hours to process and some may take up to seven days. “We have to make sure the product is safe,” Bellow said. “These products — such as whole blood, plasma and platelets — aren’t just for traumas though. As an example, no surgery will begin with less than six units of blood on hand. Then you have leukemia patients, sickle cell anemia patients and cancer patients who need our products.”

LifeShare’s donation buses are routinely parked at businesses around Calcasieu Parish, but it may not be the most opportune way of collecting the volume the center needs. Bellow elaborated about a new venture LifeShare has recently enacted … concierge donations.

LifeShare will send a team to businesses around Southwest Louisiana and set up in offices, complete with the screening and donation process. “Even if your business has three or four people who wish to donate, we can come to you,” Bellow said. “All you have to do is call us at the center and set up a date.”

Bellow also elaborated on why summer is such a challenge to keep the blood bank stocked. The largest volume of blood donated in the Lake Area comes from high school students. “Schools actually fuel our donations,” she said. “High school donors make up about 35 percent of our total donations. We try to keep them active after high school so they can become regular donors throughout their lives.”

Industry is also a source for important donation volumes. Large companies like Westlake Chemical and Sasol have been active in encouraging employees to donate. Bellow is quick to remind everyone that you don’t have to be a part of a business or school to give blood though. The buses afford one way and the easiest way is to visit the LifeShare center itself, located at 214 Dr. Michael Debakey Drive in Lake Charles.

Anyone over the age of 16 is eligible to donate, though teens do need parents’ permission to do so. And if the elderly are not sure if they can donate, Bellow gave an example of a 90-year-old woman who recently spent her birthday donating blood at a center in Wisconsin. “It’s not about age, but about health,” she said. “If you are in good health and go through the screening process and are eligible you can give blood at any age.”

As far as medications or illness, Bellow said the Federal Drug Administration guidelines change often. She knows that one line of medications that aren’t accepted are anticoagulants, or “blood thinners.” If you’re not sure if you can donate with your health situation or medication intake, Bellow suggests going through the screening process at a donation site. It only takes 10 to 15 minutes to answer the questions.

Donors who have traveled or will travel outside of the United States will also have to be screened for viability. Depending on what part of the world you visit, there are guidelines for donors to wait a certain amount of time before giving blood. In extreme cases, Bellow said, some world travelers are permanently banned from donating.

If you have any questions regarding blood donation, call LifeShare in Lake Charles at 337-436-4932, or visit their website at www.lifeshare.org.