Capital Region

Red Cross: Urgent need for blood to meet demand

Red Cross phlebotomist Andrea Gardam, right, finishes collecting blood from first-time donor Kelly Jacobs-Smith during a drive at Viaport Rotterdam on Friday.
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Red Cross phlebotomist Andrea Gardam, right, finishes collecting blood from first-time donor Kelly Jacobs-Smith during a drive at Viaport Rotterdam on Friday.

Kaitlyn Van Dyke closed her eyes and turned her head, breathing slowly and squeezing a sponge ball as she sat on a bed Friday afternoon donating blood. 

The Red Cross worker and Rotterdam resident isn’t new to donating blood, she just doesn’t like needles. 

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“Once it’s in I’m good and if I don’t watch I’m good,” she said. 

She and her dad, Brad Oudt, who also lives in Rotterdam, have made a tradition of donating together. This was their third time going together this year. 

Their pints of blood were welcomed by the Red Cross, which was holding a blood drive at Viaport Rotterdam that day. The organization has seen an uptick of blood being used as trauma cases increase, and both organ transplants and elective surgeries have resumed since the onset of the virus. 

The Red Cross has been distributing about 12% more blood products to hospitals across the U.S. compared to this time last year,” according to a release from the Red Cross. “The Red Cross needs to collect more than 1,000 additional blood donations each day to meet the current hospital demand and end the severe blood shortage.” 

While all blood types are needed, O type blood is especially needed, the organization said. People with O negative blood can donate to anyone, but only 7% of the population has that type of blood type, according to the Red Cross’ website. Because it can be universally given, it is the blood type to have a shortage first. Those with O positive blood can donate to anyone with a positive blood type, which is 80% of the population. 

The Red Cross provides 40% of the nation’s blood, according to another release from the organization. 

While Van Dyke is A negative, Oudt is O negative. It’s one of the reasons he donates. He has been donating since high school, stopping for a few years because he said he didn’t have the time. He resumed donating religiously four years ago. 

“I’m one pint shy of three gallons,” he said. 

He said the first time he donated he actually passed out, but it didn’t stop him from wanting to donate. Instead, he said he learned to make sure he was well hydrated for giving blood. 

Drinking plenty of fluids and just relaxing was the advice he said he’d give anyone donating for the first time. 

That’s exactly what Kelly Jacobs-Smith was doing Friday. She said after wanting to donate for a while, she just decided to schedule the appointment. 

The experience – “It was great” she said, while having a snack and a drink.

Also a universal donor, Jacobs-Smith said she wasn’t nervous because the staff walked her through every step. 

“You get nervous when you’re anticipating what’s next,” she said. 

Walking donors through the process is one way to calm people down, said phlebotomist Abi Clavel. She said people can get scared over the large needle used and the idea of donating a pint of blood. 

She said it’s not often they need to send someone home because they can’t relax and get too stressed before donating. 

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Various state officials, including assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara, D-Rotterdam, and Assemblywoman Mary Beth Walsh, R,C,I-Ballston, have also been sponsoring blood drive locations over the last several months, urging people to donate. Santabarbara, who is O positive, said he donates often. 

“I have a military background and I learned a lot about how important it is for blood donations for the men and women that serve this country,” he said. “This is a way to support them and support the Red Cross.”

To incentivize donations and thank those who are donating, the Red Cross is also giving anyone who donates between Aug. 1 and 15 a chance to win a VIP trip for two to the 2021 Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival. People will also receive a four-month subscription to Apple music if they don’t already have an account. 

People who want to donate blood must weigh a minimum of 110 pounds and be between the ages of 16 and 76. Those who are 16 must have parental permission. 

Local upcoming blood drives

Montgomery County

  • Thursday from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. at the Masonic Temple, 34 Division St.
  • Friday  from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the Century Club, 130 Guy Park Ave. 
  • Aug. 10 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Canajoharie High School, 136 Scholastic Way

 Saratoga County

  • Monday from 10 a.m.-6 p.m. at Ballston Elks Lodge, 10 Hamilton St., Ballston Spa
  • Wednesday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. at Clifton Park Town Hall, 1 Town Hall Plaza, Clifton Park
  • Thursday from noon to 6 p.m. at Saratoga City Center, 522 Broadway, Saratoga Springs
  • Friday from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. at Saratoga Regional YMCA Wilton Branch, 20 Old Gick Road, Saratoga Springs
  • Aug. 7 from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Stillwater United Church, 747 Hudson Ave., Stillwater
  • Aug. 10 from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. at Halfmoon Town Hall, 2 Halfmoon Town Plaza, Halfmoon
  • Aug. 11 from noon to 6 p.m. at the Burnt Hills Fire Department, 811 Rt. 50, Burnt Hills

 Schenectady County

  • Aug. 14 from 8 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at the Church of the Immaculate Conception, 400 Saratoga Road, Glenville
  • Aug. 14 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Niskayuna Reformed Church, 3041 Troy Schenectady Road, Niskayuna

 Schedule an appointment by visiting redcrossblood.org or calling the Red Cross at 1-800-RED-CROSS.

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Categories: Fulton Montgomery Schoharie, News, Saratoga County, Schenectady County

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