Giving blood is a lifelong possibility
Can you donate blood no matter how old you are?
This is the question most often asked when Jonathan DeCoste, senior blood donor recruiter with Cape Cod Healthcare, is attracting donors at blood drives and other community events.
“We want folks to know that there is no upper age limit to donate,” he said. “As long as your physician hasn’t told you otherwise and you meet the criteria, you are certainly eligible to donate.”
Some donors are also interested to know if they can donate if they have high blood pressure or diabetes, he added.
“It’s OK to donate as long as their blood pressure and blood sugars are under control and, again, they are not restricted from donating by their physician,” DeCoste said.
There are 7,500 blood transfusions done at Cape Cod Hospital and Falmouth Hospital every year according to the Cape Cod Healthcare blood center website. One pint can save up to two lives and there is no substitute for human blood.
“We collect about 67 percent of what we need and the rest that we don’t collect has to be purchased,” said DeCoste. “Each unit collected has a shelf life of 42 days, so there is always a need.”
Takes Less Than An Hour
The entire blood donation process including medical history, donation and rest in the canteen afterwards takes 45 minutes to one hour, according to DeCoste. It takes about six to eight minutes to do the actual donation. And every unit collected stays on the Cape to be used at both hospitals, he added.
At a blood drive at Falmouth Hospital, Bob Pritchard, 56, of Falmouth was preparing to donate one of many units he has donated over the years.
“I’ve been donating for 30 years,” said Pritchard.
While he used to donate to the American Red Cross before moving to Cape Cod two years ago, he now donates at the Cape Cod Healthcare blood drives.
“It’s an act of good citizenship and community,” he said. “The more you give, the more you get. I don’t think anyone leaves here without feeling good. And sooner or later we will all need blood.”
Robert Wilsterman, MD, 61, an orthopedic surgeon at Falmouth Hospital dropped by to donate during his break.
“I donate every eight weeks,” he said. “It’s really easy, the staff is very nice and it makes you feel great to donate and help others. I have been donating blood since 1975.”
Marie Butler of Mashpee is a dedicated donor at Christ the King Church in Mashpee.
“I started donating when I was young because it is a good way to give back and I’ve been told it’s good for my health,” said Butler. She has also donated platelets at Cape Cod Hospital.
Jan McEachron, 75, of Mashpee, started donating eight years ago at Christ the King Church in Mashpee. The blood drive was in memory of her friend’s son, Capt. Eric A. Jones, USMC, who died in a helicopter crash during a combat mission in Afghanistan in 2009.
“Like so many others, I want to help out and give back,” said McEachron. “People don’t often know how to give back, especially in honor of our military, and this was one way for me to do it.”
Important tips about Donating
- Keep hydrated. Drink at least an extra 16 ounces of water or fluids right before you donate.
- If you have a cold or flu-like symptoms, wait until the symptoms pass and you will be welcome to donate on another day.
- If you have an infection or taking antibiotics, you won’t be able to donate.
- It’s fine to work out the day you are donating, but rest after exercising to give your body time to recover.
- No heavy lifting or exercise for 24 hours after donating.
- You must weigh at least 110 pounds.
- Wear comfortable clothing.
- Bring a list of medications.
- Bring a picture ID or blood donor card.
- You must be at least 17 years old to donate or 16 years old with written parental permission.
Information about your eligibility to donate related to travel, medications and chronic illnesses are available on the Cape Cod Healthcare blood center website. You can also call the blood center with any questions at: 508-86BLOOD (508-862-5663).