PLATTSBURGH - The month of January marks the start of a new year. With it also being recognized as National Volunteer Blood Donor Month, it's also the opportunity to make your New Year's resolution to donate blood and save lives.
According to a fact sheet provided by AABB, formerly known as the American Association of Blood Banks, one blood donation can save up to three lives. With 60 percent of the U.S. population being eligible to donate, and only five percent actually doing so, this leaves a constant need for donations.
"We've had some really tough months," said Jennifer Matt, blood bank supervisor for the North Country Regional Blood Center. "October and November were really tight for us. We just did not have the excess."
Matt added the holiday season has been difficult as people are busy and don't donate as often.
Another important reason for people to donate said Matt is due to the expansion of the heart program at CVPH Medical Center and the expansion of other nearby hospitals including those in Canton, Potsdam, Elizabethtown, Malone, Massena and Saranac Lake.
"For us to just keep the status quo is just not enough," she said.
To promote blood donations, the staff at the blood center is preparing for their annual T-shirt drive, in which during the month of January, anyone who donates will receive a free T-shirt.
"There's some donors that just religiously donate in January, because they want that T-shirt," said Matt.
Because of this, things will be done a little different this year, Matt added. Two T-shirt designs were chosen and, as always, one will be available during the T-shirt drive in January with the other being unveiled in either April or May.
"To try and get those people who've only donated once, [to] come back and return. Because that's the key," Matt said.
Matt explained research has shown if everyone who is currently only donating once a year, comes back and does it a second time, shortages during the holidays and summer months will be much less.
In terms of specific blood types in shortage, Matt said they can always use more Type O blood, whether it be positive or negative.
"It's the universal donor and it's also the most popular blood type," Matt explained. "About 45 percent of the population are O positive."
If you do decide to become a blood donor, there are restrictions in place that may defer you.
Matt explained anyone who has visited Europe is deferred, due to Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease - more commonly known as "Mad Cow" disease - which cannot be detected through a clinical test. Malaria is also an issue. Anyone who has visited a tropical location within the past year is deferred from donating for one year.
"Even though you did not contract malaria, there's no real clinical test for malaria, so we put you in a risk category," explained Matt.
Anyone who has received a tattoo or piercing, including ear piercings, is also deferred for one year.
A person must be at least 110 pounds and age 16 or older. Ages 16-17 need parental consent to donate.
"There's no substitute for human blood. Trauma victims, cancer victims, cardiac surgery patients; all these procedures need blood," said Matt. "I mean, there are people who will not survive unless that is on that shelf."
If interested in donating, the center is located at 85 Plaza Boulevard and is open Monday through Friday, 8 a.m.- 6 p.m. The center also participates in blood drives each month. For a complete list of blood drives, visit www.cvph.org.