News and Opinion from Sisters, Oregon

Giving the gift of life through blood and organ donations

Making a blood or platelet donation through the local American Red Cross in Bend is a simple, painless process that doesn’t require a lot of time and costs nothing. And cookies and juice are available afterwards.

As easy as it is to be a donor, for the recipient of that blood product, it can mean the difference between life and death. Right now the Red Cross supply of blood is depleted following the holidays, when fewer drives are held, and a steady supply of donors is necessary year-round.

“Lifesaving medical treatments and emergencies never take a holiday,” said Paul Sullivan, senior vice president, Red Cross Biomedical Services. “Declines in donations can affect patient care. That’s why the Red Cross is encouraging eligible donors to make an appointment to give now and help those sidelined by illness and trauma.”

Donors are urged to make an appointment to give now using the Red Cross Blood Donor App, visiting Red Cross Blood, calling 1-800-REDCROSS (733-2767), or enabling the Blood Donor Skill on any Alexa Echo device.

Every day, blood donors help patients of all ages: accident and burn victims, heart surgery and organ transplant patients, and those battling cancer and other life-threatening illnesses. In fact, every two seconds, someone in the U.S. needs blood. One pint of blood can help up to three different recipients.

There are a number of blood drives scheduled during the month of January, both at sponsored sites throughout the tri-county area and at the Bend Blood Donation Center at 815 SW Bond St., Ste. 110. Here in Sisters, the first Friday of every month (with adjustments for holidays), a blood drive is held at the Sisters Fire Hall from 11:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Appointments are appreciated, but if they are not busy, they will take walk-ins. In 2019, the residents of Sisters contributed a total of 387 units of blood during the 12 monthly drives.

Twice a year, the Sisters Athletic Club hosts blood drives and there are several drives a year at Sisters High School. According to Jen Shaw, local market manager for the American Red Cross, back in 2012 and 2013, the high school hosted three drives a year and collected a total of more than 200 units both years. The number of donations has dwindled since then, with only two drives a year collecting about 50 units total. Shaw is hopeful the students will re-engage and meet their previous records.

All blood types are needed to ensure a reliable supply for patients. A blood donor card or driver’s license or two other forms of identification are required at check-in. Donors age 16 and over who weigh at least 110 pounds and are in generally good health may be eligible to donate blood. Parental permission is required for 16-year-old donors.

Organ, Eye and Tissue Donations

Of the almost 120,000 Americans waiting for a lifesaving organ transplant, more than 3,000 live in the Pacific Northwest. But a growing shortage of living and deceased donors means that not all will receive their transplant in time.

By registering people in the Pacific Northwest for organ, eye and tissue donation, Donate Life Northwest gives hope to those waiting for a transplant. Besides organ donation, cornea donation restores sight to thousands every year. A single tissue donor can touch over 50 lives – healing a burn victim, saving the life of a newborn with congenital heart defects, replacing tumorous bones, and more.

Donate Life Northwest maintains the donor registry for the state of Oregon (each state has a single registry). Through community events, education programs, and an award-winning high school curriculum, they reach thousands of people throughout the Pacific Northwest annually. Together with the communities, Donate Life Northwest has registered over 2.5 million Oregonians to be organ, eye and tissue donors, one of the highest rates in the country.

The Oregon registry is for deceased donation only. If you are interested in being a living donor, it’s important to educate yourself about the donation process, required testing, financial considerations, risks and recovery. Kidneys are the most common organs donated by living donors, and most transplant centers in Oregon and southwest Washington focus on this type of living transplant. Contact a local transplant center to learn more.

The three regional organ transplant centers in Oregon include Legacy Good Samaritan Hospital, Oregon Health and Sciences University, and the VA Portland Health Care System, all in Portland. Currently, other living donor procedures are not performed in Oregon or SW Washington. Bone marrow donations are handled through the National Marrow Donor Program, which can be found online.

There are no age limitations on who can donate. Both newborns and senior citizens have been donors. The circumstances of death and medical condition at the time of death determine what organs, eyes and tissue can be donated.

There are three ways to register as a donor. The Oregon Department of Motor Vehicles has a box on the application form for a learner’s permit, license, or state ID. When checked, legal consent is given for organ, eye and/or tissue donation upon death. A small heart will appear on the license. Registration can also be done online at Donate Life, or with a paper form.

Joining the Oregon Donor Registry via the Oregon DMV has proved phenomenally successful, ensuring that nearly 75 percent of Oregon drivers have registered their decision to donate.

It is critical that registered donors tell their family or healthcare power of attorney about their wish to be a donor, regardless of how they register. Talking with them about donation ensures they can advocate for the donor’s final wishes.

The Donate Life Northwest website provides answers to potential donors’ questions and fully explains the different options available.


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