Its that time of year again, when everyone starts making their New Years resolutions, and as your resolutions are made, Jennifer Matt wants one to be the decision to donate blood. Ms. Matt serves as the blood bank supervisor at the North Country Regional Blood Center, a not-for-profit program coordinated by CVPH Medical Center. With January being recognized as National Volunteer Blood Donor Month, the center is taking time to say thank you to all who have donated blood and those she hopes will donate for the first time. Its so easy to do, said Ms. Matt. And its something that wont cost you anything more than your time. There are various reasons why a person may not have donated blood, said Ms. Matt. Some are legitimate health reasons, but many times the reasons a person could give and does not are based on fear. Different fears come from different individuals, whether it is a fear of needles or even a fear they will contract a disease from the procedure. When donating blood, there is nothing to fear other than fear itself, said Ms. Matt. Weve got a lot of education and a lot of experience, Ms. Matt said of the center, which has been in existence for more than 30 years. Our staff is trained to talk to donors and put them at ease and to make them feel comfortable. As long as you can overcome your initial fear, whatever it is, I can promise you the staff will put you at ease and youll walk away with a good feeling having given back. The procedure itself is quite simple. Donors, whether it is their first time or one hundred and first time, all go through the same process. Upon walking into to the center or one of its various bloodmobile drives held throughout the North Country, a potential donor must first sign-in and read through educational materials provided about the blood donation process. The information is regularly updated to inform potential donors of whether or not they would be a suitable candidate to donate blood. They must next fill out a form which asks for personal information such as date of birth and place of residence, and more detailed questions such as if the person has ever been out of the country or had serious diseases. After answering several yes or no questions to examine the donors health history, the donors blood pressure, pulse, temperature and iron levels are recorded also to determine if they are in good health to donate. When the actual donation process begins, a member of the trained staff will cleanse the donors arm prior to inserting the needle. A simple pinch is all that is felt. From that point, the donor simply has to sit back while the blood is collected, squeezing a provided soft stress ball to keep blood flowing at a decent pace. A typical collection of one pint of blood can range anywhere from little more than three minutes to 10 minutes, with each donation being taken with a new, sterile needed which is discarded after use. Once the donation is complete, the portion of the donors arm used for the collection will be bandaged and a list of reminders is given. Among them is to avoid strenuous activity and to keep your body hydrated. You even get cookies and juice when youre done, Ms. Matt added with a smile. The cookies and juice are provided as nourishment immediately following the donation. Nourishment is key in the hours to follow the donation, said Ms. Matt, in order to help the body regenerate and reduce side effects such as fainting. A donation of one pint of blood can save as many as three lives after it has been thoroughly tested and processed into its four components of plasma, red cells, white cells and platelets. The donations, however, only last 42 days after a preservative has been added to them. [The blood] gets used, said Ms. Matt. This last month, we couldnt keep blood on the shelf long enough. Its just this constant need. Many people think to donate before the holidays, Ms. Matt said. However, with blood drives cancelled due to inclement weather and people not attending due to winter illnesses, the need is even greater this time of year. The holidays are always a case where youre always thinking its the season of giving, said Ms. Matt. But theres no less of a need in March or September. Its a constant need. Its even more important to us this time of year to remind people this is lifesaving. There are people here at our hospital that cannot survive without their donations. If we collected 25 units per drive plus what the donor center is getting, wed meet our needs, she added. But, there are some times when were only getting 16 or 17. It doesnt sound like a big difference, but cumulatively, it is. In order to give blood, donors must also be at least 17 years old, or 16 with parental consent, and have not donated in the past 56 days. Donors must also weigh at least 110 pounds. Most employers must also give employees time off to donate blood, according to Section 202-j of the New York State Labor Law, said Ms. Matt, leaving little reason for eligible candidates not to donate. Many people donate because theyve simply never been asked, said Ms. Matt. Thats why were asking people to donate. Most of us, in some time of our life, either know someone who has needed blood or needed blood themselves. The North Country Regional Blood Center, located at 85 Plaza Boulevard in Plattsburgh, is open Monday through Friday, from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. and may be reached at 562- 7406. Schedules for bloodmobiles within the readership area of the Clinton County Free Trader Today may be found weekly in this newspapers regional calendar of events. For more information, contact the center at 562-7406.