'100 Deadliest Days' could be deadlier without more blood donations

Dennis Druce is assisted in his blood donation by technician Shea Proctor at the American Red Cross Murray location on Jan. 8. The Red Cross is calling on Utahns to donate this summer.

Dennis Druce is assisted in his blood donation by technician Shea Proctor at the American Red Cross Murray location on Jan. 8. The Red Cross is calling on Utahns to donate this summer. (Scott G Winterton, Deseret News)


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LEHI — Benjamin Donner has been donating blood for the past 30 years — just an hour after speaking to a reporter, he was going to go donate again.

It's easy for him to remember to do it, he says. As executive director of the central and southern Utah regions of the American Red Cross, he's "immersed in this world all the time."

But a few years ago, his reason to donate got a lot more personal.

"I needed an emergency blood transfusion," he said. "When I went into the emergency room … physicians reached for O negative."

Because the hospital had O negative blood — the universal blood type — ready to go at a moment's notice, Donner is alive today.

"For you, it's just a brief humanitarian service, but for me, it's my whole life," he said.

Donner, and the Red Cross of Utah, want to emphasize the importance of donating blood. A single blood donation has the ability to save up to three lives, depending on how it's used, he said.

"Here in Utah, we have an incredible population of givers and a humanitarian focus, which I absolutely love," he said. "Sometimes this (blood donation) gets overlooked a little bit as an incredible humanitarian work."

The U.S. is dependent on the American Red Cross for 40% of its blood supply. Right now, the organization is 20,000 donations short — a big deal at any time but especially during the summer.

The time between Memorial Day and Labor Day (sometimes called the 100 Deadliest Days) is always a challenge for the Red Cross, Donner said. More people are recreating outdoors, and more people are on the roads — this means there are usually more trips to emergency rooms.

"Given that a single severe car crash can exhaust a hospital's blood inventory, we strongly encourage donors of all blood types to contribute, particularly those with O negative blood," the Red Cross says.

And while injuries are up, donations are down, Donner said. Schedules are busy, schools are closed and blood donation isn't "the first thing on our mind."

The American Red Cross is encouraging summer donations by offering all donors a $15 e-gift card to the merchant of their choice when they donate from June 10-30.

Donner recommends downloading the Red Cross blood donor app, which gives users helpful information, geolocates the nearest blood drives and even sends the donor a notification when their blood has been used.

There are just a few requirements for traditional blood donation:

  • Maximum donation frequency: Every 56 days, up to six times a year.
  • You must be in good health and feeling well.
  • You must be at least 16 years old in most states.
  • If under 18, you must have a parent or guardian's permission.
  • You must weigh at least 110 pounds.

Donner says he's seen people in their late 80s and early 20s donate with no problem. And traditional blood donation is just the beginning. Qualifying donors can also donate red blood cells, platelets and plasma.

"I will never have a chance to say thank you, personally, to those four individuals that one day thought, 'You know, it's just a good idea to go donate,' and they did it to help somebody they would never know.

"Thank you on behalf of my 16-year-old, and my 17-year-old, who wouldn't have their father if it wasn't for someone like you," Donner said.

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Emma Everett Johnson covers Utah as a general news reporter. She is a graduate of Brigham Young University.

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