When Patrick Heffernan donated blood for the first time in the 1980s, he didn’t think he’d still be donating on a regular basis thirty years later. The former Avon employee has donated at Good Samaritan Hospital 121 times, and once elsewhere, over the past thirty years; the 15 gallons of blood he has donated has the potential of saving 480 lives. Pat started a blood drive at Avon, donating once every few months during his lunch break and has continued donating past his retirement, marking a ‘donate date’ on his calendar every two months. As an avid pin collector, Heffernan has received a pin for every gallon of blood donated. Today, he owns an Avon hat decorated with fifteen pins, a collection he hopes to expand to sixteen gallons or beyond. When asked why he donates so often, Pat Heffernan said, “I enjoy it and enjoy being able to give back.” He also shared his feelings about donating blood while saying, “If you can, why not?”
Blood donations are a critical component to almost every hospital visit but the numbers of blood donations each year are not as high as they could be. An estimated 38% of the United States population is eligible to donate blood but less than 10% actually donate each year. About 1 in 7 people entering a hospital needs blood, averaging out to one person every two seconds. There are about 1 billion red blood cells in three drops of blood and each donation can save up to three lives.
By the numbers, the need for blood donations is evident. More than 4.5 million patients need blood transfusions in the United States and Canada each year; more than 1.6 million people were diagnosed with cancer last year, many of them will need blood during chemotherapy, sometimes daily. To keep the numbers in perspective, a single car accident patient can require as many as 100 pints of blood. According to the American Red Cross, 15.7 million blood donations are collected annually in the United States by 9.2 million blood donors.
Blood cannot be manufactured, only donated. A healthy donor may donate red blood cells every 56 days or double red cells every 112 days; a healthy donor may also donate platelets as few as 7 days apart but a donor may only donate platelets 24 times per year. Four transfusable products can be derived from blood—red cells, platelets, plasma and cryoprecipitate and donors can choose whether they would like to donate whole blood or a specific blood component. The body will replenish the elements given during a blood donation, some in a matter of hours and others in a matter of weeks.
Those interested in donating to the blood banks at Good Samaritan Hospital or St. Anthony Community Hospital and those interested in more information should contact the Donor Room at (845) 368-5178. To donate blood you must be between 17 years old and 76 years old (or 16 with a parental permission slip or note from your physician after your 76th birthday), weigh at least 110 pounds, have a photo ID and have your license number or Social Security Number.