The Business of Blood

In the two seconds it took you to read this, someone in America needed blood, according to the Red Cross. That's more than 43,000 people a day. Without a steady supply of fresh blood, experts say more than four million Americans would die each year.

Here in the Grand Traverse area, Michigan Blood provides the blood used by Munson Medical Center. In 2011, the nonprofit blood bank collected 8,753 pints of blood locally. And last year, it held 222 mobile blood drives in area schools, clubs and businesses.

"Donors appreciate the convenience of donating at their place of work, study, worship, or community service," said Michigan Blood public relations manager Meredith Gremel. "Hosting organizations are essential."

One area business that holds regular blood drives is Britten Banners. Every three months or so, the Michigan Blood bus parks outside the company so that employees can roll up their sleeves and give blood.

Britten Banners' goal is to have at least 20 employees donate at each blood drive.

"I try to make it easy by personally signing them up for a time to donate that's convenient for them and setting up calendar reminders in their emails, so they don't forget," said sales manager Julie Potvin, who helps coordinate the drives.

She also leads by example and makes sure to donate each time.

"It makes me feel really good to know that I'm able to help others by simply taking 45 minutes out of my day to donate," she said. "Plus, the cookies and snacks provided after you donate are really good."

Hagerty Insurance also holds four blood drives a year at its Rivers Edge Drive location. Corporate communications specialist Katherine Marciniak-DeGood said employees are allowed to give on company time, because helping the community is a core value of the business.

"Hagerty supports wellness activities within our own corporate community and the community at large," she said.

Michigan Blood's Gremel also adds that many groups see hosting blood drives as a way to boost morale, and "demonstrate their support for donating blood and helping save lives in their community."

The American Red Cross of Northwest Michigan is a secondary blood provider to Munson and a prominent organization in Traverse City when it comes to blood drives and donations.

The group holds 12 local drives a month, according to executive director Kevin Bavers.

"Private businesses and organizations play a big part in helping fill the need for blood, by providing a location for the drives, and helping recruit donors," he said.

Such is the case with the Kaliseum recreation complex in Kalkaska, which hosts at least six public blood drives a year.

"It costs us very little to host the drives, so why not?" said Kaliseum director Alan James. "Giving blood is a life-saving act."

The Kaliseum hosts the Red Cross blood drives the first Monday of every other month, which works out to about once every 60 days, on average.

"A donor can give blood every 56 days, so it's helpful if donor sites are willing to have a regular drive every other month," said the Red Cross's Bavers. "This way we have the ability to attract the same donors every time they are eligible to give again."

While the Red Cross and Michigan Blood encourage businesses to set up regular donation events, there are times when the need is especially great. The organizations put out a special appeal when hospitals drop below a three-day supply, since red blood cells must be used within 42 days of collection, and processing the blood can take 16 hours or more.

In addition, some blood types, like AB negative, are extremely rare while others, like O negative, are used most often because they can be given to anyone.

"By donating, you may give a newborn, a child, a mother or father, or a brother or sister, another chance at life," Bavers said.

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Blood By

the Numbers (and Letters)

– The average adult has about 10 pints of blood in his or her body.

– Roughly one pint is given during a donation.

– Most common blood type: O positive

– Least common blood type: AB negative

– Type O negative is the universal blood type. It can be transfused into anyone.

– To donate in Michigan, you must be 17 years old (16 with parental or guardian consent), weigh a minimum of 110 pounds, be healthy, and pass the federally regulated screening test.