Red Cross trying to get type O blood

Monday, June 2, 2003


Bill Copanas has donated blood more than 100 times. He feels this is an opportunity to help others.

Southeast Missourian

Giving blood is a "painless ordeal," according to longtime donor Richard Giles, and sometimes donors help people they know.

Giles, a retired principal of Clippard Elementary School with type O negative blood, knows this firsthand.

The American Red Cross has kicked off its campaign "June is O Month" in hopes of receiving more donations of type O blood. The Missouri-Illinois re-gion's supply of O negative currently stands at under a two-day supply.

Giles re-called that as a young man being awakened in the wee hours to give blood.

"At that time the hospitals had us on an emergency call list," he said. "This was before blood drives were sponsored by organizations."

Giles and his friends began donating on a regular basis and continued through college. It was like a club.

Since then he has been asked to give blood to needy children and has driven to St. Louis and Memphis to do just that. He has also provided blood to several people he's known so they can undergo open heart surgery.

Type O negative, Giles' type, is called the universal blood donor because it can be given to people of other blood types.

Regular donors traditionally fall out of their donation routines during the summer. However, the demand for blood tends to increase during the warmer months due to a rise in automobile accidents and outdoor mishaps.

Another Cape Girardeau donor, Bill Copanas Jr., gives blood regularly, usually with a friend. The two worked together at AmerenUE.

"The company was really good about allowing you to give blood on company time," Copanas said. "It was a good break from the office."

In 1963, Companas, then a new employee at AmerenUE, began his routine of donating blood when a co-worker was in need. At his first donation, technicians tried in each arm to draw blood but couldn't get much.

That has not happened since, and now Copanas donates about every 56 days, the minimum time required between donations. Copanas just thought it was necessary back then.

"I still think it's helpful," he said. "You don't get a lot of opportunities to do that."

There is a great need for a new generation of blood donors, according to the Red Cross, because of advancing medical technology and an aging population that requires more treatment.

Blood and blood products must constantly be replenished. Red blood cells for accident victims and surgery patients have a shelf life of 42 days; platelets for leukemia and cancer patients only five days; whole blood for severe blood loss 35 days; and plasma for burns or shock can be stored for a year.

Donors must be healthy men and women age 17 and older weighing at least 110 pounds. All of the needles and supplies used by the American Red Cross collection staff are brand new and used only once to ensure the donor's safety.

To donate blood, call (800) GIVE-LIFE or 339-1822. Organization that would like to sponsor a blood drive in June, July or August should call (877) 873-5510.

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