Lions Club strives to impact national blood shortage through local efforts

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Brock Neil, Lions Club member, waits to donate blood at a Winters Community Blood Drive. (Courtesy photo)

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Near the top of the mile-long list of calamities gripping the nation is a critical blood shortage. The Winters Lions Club and Vitalant Blood Donations (formerly known as Legacy Blood Source), are leading the charge to reverse this dire situation through local actions.

Every eight weeks, for the past 40 years, the Winters Lions Club has helped host and facilitate the Vitalant blood drives in Winters. Data from recent years indicate a 12 percent drop in blood donors across the nation. As blood cannot be synthesized, people are the only source for this life-saving commodity and a willingness to donate it — which costs nothing to do so — is the only way it can be procured.

“The Lions Club is all about service and supporting the community, and this was just one thing that our Winters Lions Club decided that they were going to do. We’re a small club, but we are mighty and the blood bank has been our constant in terms of community service,” said Karen Neil, 15-year Lions Club secretary, before giving an example of the direct impact of donating blood. “We had just done a blood bank right before the shooting at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas. The blood that we had gotten donated just days prior went to Las Vegas.”

All-too-often are issues not addressed until they reach a boiling point. Suffice to say, the blood shortage has reached that threshold of urgency with a specific need for Type O blood, platelets and plasma. It remains a mystery why folks aren’t going out and donating regularly.

“It’s interesting to note that people will line up around a blood center during a disaster, but when it’s day in and day out, which are what blood needs are all about, people are more hesitant, or busy or distracted. Right now, we have more blood going out to our hospitals than we have donors donating. We can handle this for a bit, but it’s not long term because blood expires,” said Victoria Wolfe, Vitalant Communications Director. “The shelf life is different for every component of blood you donate. Plasma can be frozen up to a year, but platelets — which help with clotting and are used a lot by cancer patients — are good up to seven days and then there’s red blood cells are good for up to 42 days. And people can donate blood every eight weeks.”

According to Wolfe, over 60 percent of the population is eligible to donate blood, but only three percent of which do. She also emphasized that every two seconds, someone in the United States receives a blood transfusion, which only compounds the need for donors.

Although the fear of needles is real, imaginations have a knack for making the blood donation experience worse than it really is. Barring the fear, one must be at least 16 to be able to donate (with parent-approval), weigh at least 110 pounds and have a photo ID. The last requirement is, of course, showing up to donate.

While Wolfe is an ardent advocate of blood donations, she’s also walking, talking example of a life saved because the selflessness of people donating their blood.

“Within each human is the incredible power to change the world for someone else. Because you enable futures,” said Wolfe. “Blood donors were a huge part of me being able to see my daughters grow up.”

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Karen Neil, Jack and Adam Davis and their mother Jacqueline at a previous blood drive. (Courtesy photo)

The Lions Club celebrates the memory of Winters resident Adam Davis each November by hosting a blood drive in honor of him. Davis was a recipient of many whole blood and platelet transfusions while he was in the hospital before his death in October 2017.

“We are so grateful for the generosity of our community which made those transfusions possible. He would want us to give back, and this blood drive gives us the opportunity to do that as we remember him,” his wife Jacqueline previously told the Express.

The Lions Club is hosting upcoming Winters Community Blood Drives at 201 Railroad Ave. on July 11, Sep 19 and Nov 21. For more information and to register, contact Vitalant at 877-258-4825 or visit vitalant.org and use blood drive code SMFM164.

Neil said the Lions Club is open to new members who are interested in getting involved or volunteering at blood drives. For more information, contact her at 540-219-5911. The Winters Lions Club is meeting virtually, but is looking to get back to in-person meetings on the second Wednesday of the month this fall.

As this little town is known for looking out for its neighbors, one should consider to donate the life source that flows through every human, because — quite frankly — it’s in the town’s blood.

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