Image courtesy of Blood Bank of Alaska

The Blood Bank of Alaska is hosting a blood drive in Petersburg for the first time ever. The event runs Aug. 6 and 7 from noon to 7 p.m. at the community gym. It’s in collaboration with the Petersburg Medical Center and the borough’s Parks and Rec Department. KFSK’s Angela Denning reports:

There is no substitute for human blood. If a person is in an accident or is in treatment and needs blood, there’s only one kind that works: the real thing from another person. But donated blood only lasts so long.  The moment it leaves a person’s body, it has 42 days to get to someone in need.

“Blood has a shelf life of 42 days, at least the red cell component of the blood,” said Westley Dahlgren with the Blood Bank of Alaska. “The plasma is frozen and can last for a year.”

Dahlgren was speaking on the monthly radio show, PMC Live.

He says there’s always a need for donors; the amount of blood needed in Alaska changes from day to day depending on traumatic accidents that are happening. Donated blood is distributed out of Anchorage’s blood bank every day of the year. It travels by air in plastic bags surrounded by ice to communities throughout the state.

The blood bank tracks everything for safety reasons. They document the donor’s questionnaire, the equipment used in the donation process, and the staff person who made the draw.

Only about 40 percent of the population can donate. Dahlgren says there a many reasons why people can’t for things like recent travel to some countries and those with certain medical conditions. However, he says people are often surprised who is eligible. Diabetes, for example, is fine. And age is not a factor. People can donate from age 16 on up.

“So, really it’s important to maximize the amount of donors that we do get or those people who are eligible to come in and donate,” said Dahlgren. “Alaska’s extremely isolated and we’re almost on our own in terms of supplying Alaska blood but people can make a huge impact just by donating blood.”

It takes about eight minutes or a little longer for a pint of blood to be drawn, which is the amount of blood taken in a donation. Overall, with the paperwork, the process takes about an hour. People do not need to know their blood type. They accept all kinds.

“Just given the demographics of Alaska and just how Alaska is, there’s a good chance that some of the blood that is collected at that blood drive–obviously it’s going to come to Anchorage but then we ship it out after its processed across the state,” Dahlgren said. “So, there’s a high probability that some of the blood is going to go back to Petersburg.”

A person’s body immediately begins replenishing the blood that’s taken. Some donors don’t notice anything afterwards. A small number of people feel some fatigue. Before donating people should hydrate and eat a meal.

Petersburg Medical Center’s Public Relations Coordinator, Kelsey Lambe, says working with Blood Bank of Alaska to organize the blood drive has been positive.

“I’ve been on a few calls and there’s a lot of communication and coordination that happens to make sure that everything and the people get here and the blood gets back on time,” Lambe said. “So, I appreciate all the work they’re doing to make sure we are able to donate.”

For the most part, Covid does not affect the blood drive. People do not have to be vaccinated. Masking is required by staff and encouraged but not mandatory for donors. All equipment is sterilized after each donation.

Again, the blood drive in Petersburg runs today and tomorrow from noon to 7 p.m. Walk-ins are welcome at the community gym or call for an appointment (907) 222-5630. They are encouraging people to make appointments to get through the process faster. Local businesses have donated snacks for donors afterwards.