A browning red circle of iodine marked the spot where the needle would go into Jack Withrow’s arm.
That day, the 60-year-old Calgon retiree would receive his three-gallon pen from the American Red Cross.
“I’m trying to beat my dad,” he said, who starting giving blood when he was 18 and during his career organized blood drives at Calgon. “My dad gave six gallons of blood.”
He said he’s never had any bad effects nor has he ever been turned down as a donor.
Withrow of Catlettsburg is a believer in the American Red Cross. He was raised to be.
“My parents taught me it was important,” he said. “They gave and my mom later had several illnesses and operations where she needed blood.”
Withrow said he sees donating blood as a civic duty.
“All people, especially young people, need to realize they’re healthy now but sometime they won’t be and as good citizens we should make sure there is a good supply of blood,” he said.
Blood collection isn’t the only job of the Red Cross.
Vicki James, executive director of the Northeast Kentucky Chapter, said her office helps many victims of house fires as well as natural disasters and encourages disaster preparedness. She said the Red Cross also offers first aid training courses and has started offering apps for dealing with tornados, first aid, pet first aid and teaching children how to swim.
However, blood collection is very important: the American Red Cross is responsible for 40 percent of blood donations in the country.
James, who has given 13 gallons, said the local office has two regular drives every month: from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on the first Friday of each month at the Central fire station and on the third Friday of the month at King’s Daughters Office Park. In addition, various other drives occur each month throughout the service area, which includes Boyd, Carter, Lawrence, Greenup and Lewis counties.
The most recent challenge to keeping up the supply of blood has been weather. James said several drives have been canceled because of inclement weather.
“We try to keep a two-day inventory of blood, so that’s why it’s important to stay stocked,” she said, noting flu season has kept many regular donors home and spring brings tornadoes, another reason for being prepared with a well-stocked inventory.
“The biggest challenge is finding new donors and getting them started on donating blood and saving lives,” James said, adding the donor population is aging and developing health problems that eliminate them as donors.
“Disasters we really can’t control but we do have the ability to increase blood donors and blood collection by talking to more people and informing them of the process and the need and then just trying to encourage the community to help us out,” James said.
The American Red Cross has more than 200,000 drives per year, she said. Less than 38 percent of the population is eligible to give blood; of those, only about 5 percent actually give.
‰Other interesting facts from the Red Cross:
‰The number of blood donations collected in the U.S. in a year: 15 million.
‰The number of blood donors in the U.S. in a year: 8 million.
‰The number of patients who receive blood in the U.S. in a year: 4.9 million.
‰The volume of blood transfused to patients is increasing at the rate of 6 percent per year.
‰The demand for blood transfusions is growing faster than donations
‰Blood cannot be manufactured — it can only come from donors.
‰Shortages of all blood types usually occur during the summer and winter holidays.
It didn’t take Withrow long to fill up a donor’s bag.
“I’m pro-Red Cross,” he said.
The next regular blood drive will be from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday at the Central Fire Station. For more information from the Northeast Kentucky Chapter of the American Red Cross, call (606) 325-1626.
LEE WARD can be reached at email@example.com or (606) 326-2661.