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St. Mary's could use your blood

Blood. It's an essential component of any hospital's operations, because like the air we breathe, it's something no human being can live without.

St. Mary's Regional Health Center is not exempted from this need. But unlike many of its counterparts in other communities, the Detroit Lakes hospital gets its blood from local sources -- specifically, its own blood bank.

Though the St. Mary's blood bank had been closed since early February to accommodate a major remodeling project in the hospital's laboratory facilities, it reopened this week -- and the search is on to rebuild its pool of regular donors.

"We're encouraging people to come in and donate," said Michelle Norby, a medical technologist who works at the blood bank. After being closed for a couple of months, "we don't want to lose our donor base," she explained.

In order to make the process more convenient, the blood bank has expanded its hours, she added.

Donors can schedule an appointment between 8 a.m. and 7:30 p.m. on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Previously, the bank didn't schedule donor appointments after 4 p.m., but now appointments can be scheduled in the early evening, after work.

"We made some staffing changes to accommodate (the expanded hours)," Norby added.

"Being a small local blood bank makes us kind of special," she continued. "Bemidji, Grand Forks and Detroit Lakes are pretty much the only ones left around here -- the other hospitals are serviced by United Blood Services or Red Cross (both large, regional blood centers)."

Having an all-local source of blood gives the St. Mary's bank an advantage, Norby added.

"All the blood we draw stays right here (in the hospital)," she said. "People can donate once every 56 days (approximately eight weeks)."

While they are undergoing blood pressure, hemoglobin and temperature checks, prospective donors are also asked to fill out a list of written questions about their medical history.

"The questions ensure the safety of the donor as well as the recipient," Norby noted, adding, "We also do a quick mini-physical to make sure you have enough blood to give us."

The amount of blood taken per donor session is one unit of 500 milliliters. A typical human body contains between 10-12 units of blood. Most donors "never miss it" when they are finished with the process -- in fact, Norby said, some claim that they feel better physically after donating.

"There's no evidence to support that (feeling better), but that's what they say," she added.

But an improvement in one's physical well-being is not the only potential advantage to donating, Norby said.

"You're saving a life," she explained. "Humans can't use horse blood, dog blood, artificial blood ... it has to be human. It's a very necessary thing."

Approximately 15-20 units of blood must be drawn each week to meet the hospital's needs, Norby added. "We use close to 1,000 units per year at St. Mary's."

Besides individual donations, St. Mary's can also arrange for a company blood drive if any local businesses are interested in organizing one.

Anyone interested in scheduling an individual appointment or a business blood drive can contact blood bank supervisor Candy Walter at 847-0810.

Vicki Gerdes

Staff writer at Detroit Lakes Newspapers for the past 16 years, currently editor of the entertainment and community pages as well as covering city council and the Lake Park-Audubon School Board. Living in DL with my cat, Smokey.

(218) 844-1454