By Tom Kunicki, American Red Cross volunteer
Peter Vu is on a mission for the American Red Cross. As the coordinator of the Santa Ana Blood Donation Center and a moderator for the Facebook Red Cross Platelet Donors group, he believes that his job is "to keep the schedule full of lifesaving heroes!"
Peter initially came to the Red Cross as a platelet donor, making regular donations every two weeks. Platelets are a key clotting component of blood often needed by cancer patients. By giving platelets regularly, donors can help patients fight cancer and recover from other life-threatening illnesses and injuries. When Peter found out that the Santa Ana Blood Donation Center was hiring, he jumped at the chance to make a more official contribution and applied for that position. "It was a smooth process since I already knew many of the staff that work there,” Peter recalls. “Now, I am an employee who comes into the Red Cross five times a week!"
There is a constant need for donations of blood or blood products, and the Red Cross collects, processes and distributes about 40 percent of the nation’s blood supply. Every two seconds, someone in this country needs a blood transfusion. With the advent of improved blood fractionation processes, it is possible to collect red cells, platelets and/or plasma, so that a single whole blood donation can now help save more than one life.
Each of us may have thought about donating blood at one time or another during our busy daily schedules. Peter would tell you not to think too long, and just act. “You can make a direct and tangible difference in someone else’s life in about an hour’s time. You will feel that you made the world a better place,” he says.
Peter and his colleagues have the highest regard for blood donors. "They’re the best examples of humanity...a lot of them are regulars, and they carve out time in their busy schedules with no benefit to themselves just to help out a complete stranger,” says Peter. “My favorite moment is every time a donor tells me that they started donating because a loved one needed blood or platelets and that they keep coming back because they had such a great experience with us."
Peter is proud of his involvement in the Red Cross. He will tell you that it "is one of the glues society has to keep the world turning. The goodwill of people to generously donate their time and precious life-blood is manifested and carried forth by the Red Cross!" Peter has donated 413 apheresis units and 23 whole blood donations – just one more donation until he reaches three gallons.
A whole blood donation takes about an hour from start to finish, but the actual donation itself only takes about eight to 10 minutes. In most states, individuals who are 17 years of age (16 with parental consent where allowed by state law), weigh at least 110 pounds and are in generally good health may be eligible to donate blood. High school students and other donors 18 years of age and younger have to meet certain height and weight requirements.
Eligible individuals are encouraged to schedule a blood or platelet donation appointment by using the Blood Donor App, visiting RedCrossBlood.org or calling 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767).