SUTHERLIN — After 15 years in law enforcement, Sgt. Justin Marquis doesn’t bump into much that makes him queasy, needles included. So the prospect of opening a vein for the American Red Cross created no nervousness for the Sutherlin police officer.
“If I have to bleed for the job, I’d rather do it this way,” said Marquis, one of nearly 30 people who signed up to give blood Thursday at a drive sponsored by the Sutherlin Police Department.
In some ways, Marquis, 36, was typical of a first-time donor. He had no objections to giving blood and had meant to get around to it for a long time. But given a busy work and family schedule, it was easy to put off donating until the opportunity showed up at the Sutherlin branch library, less than a block from his workplace.
Making donations convenient is one challenge faced by the Red Cross, but probably not the biggest, according to Patti McCollum, the agency’s donor recruitment representative for Douglas and Coos counties.
“For first-time donors, it’s the fear of the unknown,” McCollum said. “They don’t understand how easy and quick and painless it is to donate blood.”
They also may not understand the importance of replenishing local and regional blood supplies. McCollum said her office seeks to provide about 11,000 units (equal to 1,375 gallons) of blood each year to meet hospital needs. At the least, shortages can force the hospital to cancel elective surgeries, McCollum said. At the worst, they can cost lives.
As he waited to register for his appointment Thursday morning, Marquis held out a partly empty water bottle as proof he followed instructions for hydrating. Sutherlin High School senior Nia Siron, one of three student volunteers stationed at the registration desk, chided Marquis for following his habit of skipping breakfast that morning.
“That’s not good for you,” she said as she handed him an eligibility sheet to study.
No matter how often they give blood, donors must be prepared to answer questions, including inquiries about travel, previous medical procedures, illnesses and sexual history.
After reading the sheet, Marquis stepped into a room set up with portable equipment forming cubicles for private consultations. Red Cross phlebotomist Ken Roberts greeted Marquis and the two went over Marquis’ responses. This took longer than usual for two reasons. First, a computer glitch wiped out some stored information. In addition, Marquis needed to give details about heart surgery he’d undergone.
Before being cleared, Marquis had another test to pass. His finger was pricked and a small sample of blood taken to determine if his iron levels were high enough for a donation.
About half an hour after his appointment, Marquis was escorted to one of three chairs by Red Cross nurse Janna Bryant. She checked his identification, asked him if he had iodine allergies before scrubbing his right arm and gave him a small rubber ball to squeeze to get his blood moving in the right direction.
Once again, Marquis hit an atypical delay as Bryant and another Red Cross worker searched for a receptive vein.
“Mine are deep, so it took them a little longer, but it’s no big deal,” he said after the needle was inserted.
After six minutes and 48 seconds, Marquis was unhooked. A medical assistant told him he’d yielded a pint and six tubes for testing. She told him to avoid strenuous physical activity for five hours, to drink plenty of fluids and how to care for the bandage on his arm. Should he develop symptoms of illness or bleeding or bruising, Marquis needed to call the telephone number on a handout. Now it was time for juice and cookies.
“I don’t feel any different at all, no dizziness, and I’d definitely do this again,” he said at the refreshment table.
He should have plenty of opportunities. Each year there are about 360 blood drives around the county, McCollum said. While drop-ins are welcomed, making an appointment is the most effective use of a donor’s time. The agency’s website, redcrossblood.org, has tips for how to prepare for a donation. Information is also available at 800-733-2767, the number to call for an appointment.
A donor must be healthy, at least 17 years old and weigh at least 110 pounds. (Parental consent is required for 16-year-olds, who also have different weight requirements.) There is no upper age limit. Donors may give blood every 56 days.
Though they may need frequent reminders, it’s not unusual for people to become repeat donors, McCollum said.
“It’s gratifying, and people want to do it again,” she said.
• You can reach Tricia Jones by phone at 541-957-4216 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.