Blood Bank of Hawaii renews call for donors
• Photo gallery: Donations at the Blood Bank of Hawaii
By Michael Tsai
Advertiser Staff Writer
Like many other otherwise well-adjusted adults, Max Jardin has a thing about needles.
"I don't like them," he said, laughing. "I'm afraid of needles."
But Jardin's fear ends where his desire to help others begins.
The 61-year-old Handi-Van driver is a regular at the Blood Bank of Hawaii's Dillingham donor center. Every eight weeks, he settles in to one of several recliners, extends his arm, looks away as a nurse painlessly inserts a needle, then squeezes, squeezes, squeezes for someone else's dear life.
He's done this more than 60 times over the last several years.
Jardin was at the donor center again yesterday, joining dozens of other donors in heeding the blood bank's seasonal call for more contributions.
"I just want to do my part and help in any way I can," Jardin said. "Maybe someone will do the same for me one day but hopefully not soon!"
While the blood bank needs donations of 200 pints of blood per day to meet the demands of Hawai'i's population, the holiday season has traditionally been a difficult time to draw donors because of busy schedules, seasonal colds and flu, and winter break for colleges and high schools (last year, local high school blood drives yielded nearly 4,800 pints of blood).
"People in Hawai'i have always been wonderful in their response, but there's always a need for more," said Blood Bank of Hawaii spokesman Randy Kusaka.
Last year, approximately 25,000 donors about 2 percent of the population contributed 59,132 pints of blood. Nationally, blood donors account for about 5 percent of the total population, Kusaka said.
The Blood Bank continues to try and recruit younger donors. About 65 percent of donations come from donors age 40 or older.
Kusaka said the Blood Bank is also trying to encourage existing donors to give as often as they can.
"We have a lot of people who donate once a year," he said. "If we can get them to donate more often, it would have a tremendous impact."
For many potential donors, the biggest obstacle is fear, said registered nurse Kim Stryker, who has worked at the blood bank for 15 years.
Stryker empathizes. She had been working at the blood bank for four years before she made her first donation.
"I was a fainter, so no one wanted to draw from me," she said. "For a lot of people, it's just a big fear of the unknown. But once they come in and see how easy and painless it is, they're happy to come back."
Linda Langley, 60, of Makiki, has been donating two or three times a year for the last 10 years. What keeps her going, she said, is peer pressure. Her employer, Geico, hosts regular blood drives and the unit-vs.-unit competition provides ample incentive for all to participate.
"It makes me feel really good," she said. "I have family members who have needed blood and I've seen how it saved their lives. This is a piece of me that I can give back."
Family practitioner Dean Otaka has seen first-hand how donations save lives.
"I deal with hospital patients all the time and I order transfusions, so on my end I know that we are constantly using the supply," he said. "I see the recipients and how they benefit from it."
Yesterday, Otaka spent a few peaceful minutes at the Dillingham facility, gently squeezing a miniature foam soccer ball to stimulate blood flow as his donation collected in a sterile bag.
"I don't feel any different," he said. "It's just a relaxing experience for me."