Diana Garcia tries to donate platelets at United Blood Services in Lubbock every other week. Like most donors, Diana's decision to donate is a personal one that started three years ago. Diana says, "I had ultrasounds and everything. Everything was great when she was born. She was as far as we were concerned a healthy weight."
Alexanna Garcia came home in September of 2002 but by December, Alexanna would be spending her first Christmas in Covenant Children's Hospital. Diana says, "They were pretty sure it was just an innocent heart murmur." But what doctors found was a much bigger problem. Diana explains, "Her ventricle was not split in two. Most people have four chambers in their heart. They have two ventricles but she just has one. It's the size of two but it just isn't split. That was actually flooding her heart and lungs with blood and she was essentially drowning in her own blood."
Heart surgeons performed emergency surgery. At 10-months old, Alexanna was in the hospital again for a second surgery. Diana says, "I don't like needles probably worse than a lot of people but she's had a lot of needles stuck in her than I'll probably ever have."
It's donors like Diana that UBS spokesman Les Long says are true heroes. Long says, "I do know that people do get tired of us being on critical appeal but it kinda makes sense when you think about the fact that only 5% of the population can donate blood but at least one third of the population is gonna use blood products at some time."
Lubbock's two largest hospitals used more than 30,000 units of blood in 2005. Covenant ordered 20,589 units from UBS and University Medical Center ordered more than 10,000 units. Fortunately, 36,000 people were able to donate 50,000 units in Lubbock. But UBS services 43 hospitals in 128 counties. Long says, "Within our region there are 17% of centers out there are on what is called code red which is what we're on and that's not really having an adequate supply. Not only do we not have blood supply but we can't get it from somewhere else."
The problem, Long says is that blood has a shelf life. Long says, "We don't want to draw too many on any given day and waste products so being a good steward of the community we end up trying to draw only what we need and not more than that."
The supply must also meet specific demands. Anyone can receive O negative so hospitals use it in emergencies. Once a donor is typed, they can use specific donations. But some patients like Alexanna can only receive O negative. Diana says, "The thought that someone took the time out of their day to go donate blood for her, it was there we didn't have to ask we've never been able to say thank you, that was such an important thing."
Today, Alexanna is a happy 3-year-old. This summer, she will need more blood for her third and final heart surgery. Diana says, "If it wasn't there for her, she wouldn't be here today. She wouldn't have had the surgeries that saved her because they wouldn't have performed them without blood."
You can donate whole blood in under 45 minutes. Or you can donate on TREMA machines which separate your blood into components like platelets and plasma. The whole process takes about an hour and fifteen minutes.
To donate, stop by UBS at 48th and University or call (806) 741-1752 to make an appointment.
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