Save a life: Donate blood at United Blood Services

Most people will probably never have to run through a burning building to save a child or dive into a lake to save someone who’s drowning, but most everyone can save a life by donating blood. United Blood Services, 1919 N. Broadway, is such the place where people can go to donate blood and in turn save a life.

The big change happening soon at United Blood Services is that center manager Rich Larcombe is leaving his post after 36 years. Over the last year United Blood Services has had staffing issues like almost every place else in town, Larcombe said, and he felt like now would be a good time to leave. Jennifer Charbonneau will be taking over as center manager and another specialist will come out of Bismarck, he explained. Two staff members at United Blood Services who had previously left the organization have come back, Larcombe noted. “United Blood Services is a great company to work for so I have no complaints,” he said. “Anyone looking for a job or a career, come here or you can transfer anywhere.”

United Blood Services had no flood issues, since their location is high atop North Hill, and while some of the staff were flooded out, the city and United Blood Services came back, Larcombe said. They held the Battle of the Badges fundraiser the last week in June 2011 and were surprised with the turnout, he said. It seemed like the event would’ve been a dud, but was a huge success, Larcombe added. “Minot is a great community and if you ask them to do something, they’ll step up.”

However, United Blood Services is still running on 4 percent of the population that donates blood, Larcombe said. “There is absolutely a need, but it’s being fulfilled,” he added. Some months they do well while other months they don’t do as well with donations, Larcombe said. “The air base is great for United Blood Services because they’re in the 18 to 40 year age range, in good shape and healthy,” he noted. The hardest thing in the world is to find a first-time donor, though, according to Larcombe, since most people don’t think to donate. “But it’s going well and we will get the blood we need for the 91 hospitals we serve, but there’s always a need. If we could raise it to 5 percent of people donating, we’d be good to go.”

Blood donations have been steady, Larcombe said, and that’s what you want. You don’t want 100 donations one day and 20 the next, he added. United Blood Services knows the number of donations they’ll receive when going into area communities for blood drives, however. Blood is only good for 42 days and isn’t ready until three to four days after it has been drawn.

“We need more coordinators of blood drives in small towns because of aging populations,” Larcombe said. “The coordinators are heavily involved because it’s their own project, or baby. We’ll still go to the small towns because we can’t get all the blood from Minot, but who will take over for the aging population?”

United Blood Services typically has 15 to 20 blood drives per month, Larcombe said. Most of the mobiles go out to surrounding communities, but they’re always looking for places to go, he added. The most recent blood drive was held Jan. 29, at Minot State University, where 32 of the university cheerleaders donated blood and United Blood Services was able to collect 32 units, Larcombe explained.

People interested in donating blood must be 16 years or older or have parental permission if younger than 16; must weigh at least 110 pounds; must show identification containing legal name with the date of birth, Social Security number, United Blood Services assigned donor number or photo ID; must be eight weeks between whole blood donations; and must be three days between platelet or apheresis donations. Larcombe said if people have any question about donation qualifications, it’s usually about medications.

Donating blood takes about an hour, Larcombe said, but the needle is only in the person’s arm for about five minutes. You check in at the front desk, read through the materials given to you, your vital signs will be taken and you’ll be given a mini physical, and you’ll answer a few questions to make sure you’re interested in donating, he explained. Then they’ll do the prep work for blood to be drawn, draw the blood, patch up the needle mark, spend a few minutes in recovery, have some refreshments, and you’ll be sent on your way after 10 to 15 minutes after they make sure you’re okay.

It’s preferable for people to make an appointment to donate blood rather than dropping in. “If you have an appointment, you’ll go first,” Larcombe explained, before a person who had walked in without an appointment. “We have days where we could use some walk-ins,” Larcombe added with a chuckle.

The busiest time for blood donation is later in the day, Larcombe said. Usually the 10 a.m. slot and the 3 to 6 p.m. time frame are booked up, he added. Every morning they get cancellations, but busy times are often right away in the morning and late in the afternoon, he also said.

Larcombe said United Blood Services has been doing a significant amount of talking to high school students about donating blood. They have been making a concerted effort to go after the younger kids, mainly because there will need to be replacement donors for when the World War II generation gets too old since they are the ones who have been the most faithful donors, he explained. The baby boomer generation is also trying to be reached for donating blood as well as their children. A lot of people don’t donate blood because they haven’t been asked, Larcombe pointed out. High school kids who donate blood fit the criteria they need in the volunteer category for scholarship applications, he added, and donations from them have blown up sky high.

“We have to get the younger kids involved because if we can get someone interested in seventh grade, that person might donate in high school,” Larcombe said.

Larcombe encourages everyone who is able to donate blood. “The person who needs (blood) might be sitting next to you or a family member or friend will need blood at 2 a.m. on a Saturday night. It needs to be there and available,” he said. “Every time you donate blood, you save two or three people’s lives. Just try it once. It’s the easiest thing to do to save someone’s life.”