By Heather Mullinix
Lydia Reppert, LPN in endoscopy, began giving blood when she was 17 years old as soon as she became eligible under Red Cross guidelines. This past year, she completed her 218th blood donation, bringing her lifetime total donation to more than 27 gallons.
"I had an instructor who explained you may not have money but you can get a stick in the arm and help people," she said.
Teresa Cooper, administrative assistant to the chief nursing officer, has rolled up her sleeve 91 times, for more than 11 gallons. She had been a regular donor for some time when her mother became ill.
"I decided to start going every time I could," she said.
There is no substitute for human blood. That's why volunteer blood donors are needed to replace blood lost through surgery, trauma or disease, such as cancer or hemophilia. All blood types are needed, from the universal O-negative donors to types A, B and AB. Both Reppert and Cooper are A-positive blood types, a type they say isn't rare, but still valuable.
But even though about 37 percent of the population is eligible to donate blood, few do so. Only about three percent of eligible donors donate blood. And even less do so regularly.
At Cumberland Medical Center, that rate is a lot higher, with about 10 percent of the staff, 79, donating one or more gallons. Cumulative totals for the CMC donors is 1,769 total pints, for 189 gallons. Those blood donations have touched the lives of 5,307 patients.
"It gets more and more difficult to find those loyal donors willing to make the sacrifice to give a part of their body," Jean Ann Mayberry, donor recruitment representative for the American Red Cross. "You see that need and you've done a fabulous job."
Cumberland County is served by the Tennessee Valley American Red Cross, encompassing about 70 counties in Middle Tennessee, southwestern Kentucky and parts of Illinois and Missouri. In that region, about there are about 200,000 blood donors, but only 120 of them have reached the 25-gallon plus level. Reppert is in an elite group, but Cumberland County has a number of dedicated donors, and there are four in the county who have donated more than 27 gallons. In addition to a certificate of appreciation, Reppert received a 27-gallon pin and her name is included on the 25-gallon plaque displayed in Nashville.
Cooper was added to the 10-gallon hall of fame and she, too, received a pin recognizing her blood donations and a certificate of appreciation. There are 42 donors in Cumberland County who have given 80 or more pints of blood, measuring 5,444 pints and impacting about 16,000 lives.
"We don't give blood to get our name on a plaque," said Nathan Baker, with American Red Cross. "We give blood because we care."
Donors can give whole blood every 56 days. To be eligible to donate, donors must be at least 17 years old, weight at least 110 pounds and feel well that day and able to perform normal activities. Those with chronic conditions, such as diabetes, may also give if they are being treated and the condition is under control.
Each donor will have their temperature, pulse, blood pressure and hemoglobin measured prior to donating. There will also be some private and confidential questions during the pre-donation interview.
Before heading to the blood drive or donor center, be sure to drink extra water the day before and following your donation, and make sure to eat a healthy meal. Bring your driver's license or two other forms of identification and a list of any medications you are taking.
The actual blood donation takes about 8 to 10 minutes. Afterward, enjoy a small snack and recoup for a few minutes. Then you can be on your way.
After donating, blood is processed into red blood cels, plasma, platelets and cryoprecipitate. Because of this, your donation of one pint of blood can help up to three different people.
The Red Cross encourages regular donations to help ensure an adequate blood supply throughout the year, and while many people want to give blood following a disaster, such as a hurricane or severe weather event, the best time to donate is before disaster strikes.
Reppert said, "It doesn't cost anything but a little stick in the arm, but it lets us help any way we can."
Locally, the Red Cross offers the Crossville Blood Donor Center for convenient blood donations. Located at 11 E. First St., the center is open Monday through Wednesday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Thursday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Friday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Call 337-0248 to schedule an appointment.