Straight from the heart: The importance of donating blood |

Straight from the heart: The importance of donating blood

Annette Carter (seated) receives a blood transfusion as part of her treatment for a rare blood cancer, and is assisted by Pamela Kline, RN, in the SNMH Ambulatory Treatment Center.
Submittd photo |

The season of gift-giving is past, but there is still a crucial, life-saving gift that can be given at any time — donating blood.

Every two seconds someone in the United States needs blood.

It’s a startling statistic made more worrisome by the fact that fewer than 40 percent of people in the U.S. are eligible to donate blood, and fewer than 10 percent actually do.

At Dignity Health Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital (SNMH), donated blood is crucial to patients, particularly in the Emergency Room, surgical unit and oncology department, according to Rhonda Horne, director of Clinical Laboratory Services.

“Donors may not understand how appreciative those of us who need blood are. I just want to say thank you.”Annette Carter

In fact, SNMH used roughly 1,800 units of blood in 2015.

“Blood donation is so essential for us to be able to provide the blood products for patients when they are in need. In fact, different parts of the blood — cells, plasma and platelets — can all be used to support different health needs,” Horne said.

One person who understands the benefits of blood donation very well is Annette Carter, a patient at the hospital who receives regular transfusions as part of her treatment for a form of blood cancer called Myelodyspastic syndrome (MDS), which causes severe anemia.

“I’m very appreciative of the blood donors. When my hemoglobin is low, I feel extremely tired, and the transfusions make a big difference,” she shared. “I know that blood is donated most often for emergencies, but for those of us who need ongoing transfusions, we are grateful all the time.”

The hospital partners with the regional blood donor organization BloodSource for the blood used within the hospital. BloodSource has a donation center located in Grass Valley at 759 Sutton Way.

“Your gift may go to a fellow member of your local community, or it may be sent anywhere in the world, if needed,” Alexander Sigua, a representative from BloodSource, said.

According to Sigua, winter is a challenging time to collect what’s needed because inclement weather, holiday travel and a more prevalent cold and flu season reduces the pool of eligible donors.

The donation process is relatively simple and generally takes less than 10 minutes. The entire process, including registration, providing a medical history, and a short physical to check a person’s temperature, blood pressure, pulse and hemoglobin levels, takes a little over an hour, including a rest period with refreshments.

Those who have more time available, however, can donate platelets if they are eligible.

During this type of donation, special equipment is used to sort blood components and separate platelets from red blood cells, which are returned to the donor. This automated donation takes closer to 2 hours.

Platelets are often used by chemotherapy patients. Chemotherapy kills the patient’s white blood cells and platelets, which need to be replenished.

“The need for platelets and plasma continues to increase across the country,” said Sigua.

Horne assured that blood donations are put to good use at SNMH. “We have a very strong ‘every drop counts’ program in place here at the hospital, because we know how precious it is,” she said.

Horne said the hospital carefully cross-matches all donated blood against a sample of the patient’s blood to make sure everything matches up before they use it for a transfusion.

For those who would like to donate blood, BloodSource is open to walk-in or scheduled appointments at the donation center. Appointments can be made by phone or online. Donors have to be at least 17 years old, weigh at least 110 pounds and be in general good health.

“Donors may not understand how appreciative those of us who need blood are. I just want to say thank you,” said Carter.

For more information, or to make a blood donation appointment, call BloodSource at 866-822-5663 or visit the website at

All physicians providing care for patients at SNMH are members of the medical staff and are independent practitioners, not employees of the hospital.

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