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Summer blood donors needed in Kentucky

Kenny Holston, Flickr

With the busy July 4 holiday week over, emergency officials are hoping Kentuckians have some time to help save lives in their community.

The Kentucky Blood Center serves 90 counties and provides blood to over 70 hospitals. However, the center's vice president of marketing, Martha Osborne, says maintaining an adequate supply during the summer months is challenging.

"There's a lot of outdoor activities and a little bit of increase in traumas, especially around the holidays, and when you combine that with a drop in donations it can be pretty difficult to make sure there's enough blood on hand at any given time," she explains.

She notes donations are also down because educational institutions are closed for summer. Blood drives at high schools and colleges account for about 20 percent of all blood donations.

While there is a great need for blood donors now, Osborne notes hospitals rely on regular blood donations year-round. She says blood only has a shelf-life of about 40 days, and it's particularly difficult to maintain the type-O supply.

"It can be transfused to anyone in the event of an emergency without cross-matching," she notes. "So that's what gets used in traumas and O-negative units frequently are carried on our emergency helicopters throughout the state."

Osborne says donating blood is an easy process that involves answering some basic health questions and having blood pressure, temperature and red blood cells checked. And once approved, it's off to the blood donor bed.

"A phlebotomist performs the procedure," she says. "The needle is in your arm about eight to ten minutes so not a long time at all. And in exchange for that, you're going to save three lives."

Donors must be at least 17 years of age, or 16 years old with parental consent; weigh at least 110 pounds and be in general good health. Certain medications or international travel might make a candidate ineligible to donate.