Summer is slow, even for blood banks.
People go on vacations. So Blood Centers of the Pacific — which serves Napa, Sonoma, Lake and Mendocino counties — has to get creative.
On Tuesday morning, a red, white and blue mobile blood bank rolled up to the Napa Fire Department, as it does every year. Staff came ready to serve city employees and others in Napa who wished to donate blood.
Christine Storbo, who works for the city, said she goes every time. Her dad once required a five-pint transfusion to treat a disease. Her sister was in a bad car collision.
“I’ve known so many people that needed (blood),” she said, adding that donating regularly since the age of 18 had the added bonus of helping her get over a fear of needles.
One in seven people entering the hospital needs blood, according to Vitalant, which operates Blood Centers of the Pacific.
Every year, 4.5 million lives are saved by blood transfusions, according to American Red Cross Blood Services. The organization says one donation can save up to three lives and just 3 percent of age-eligible blood donors give each year.
Battalion Chief Charlie Rhodes said it’s rare that Napa Fire paramedics respond to a call where someone is losing a lot of blood, but blood donations can come in handy during surgeries or emergencies such as earthquakes or car collisions.
“We’re kind of in that business of saving peoples’ lives,” he said. “If they are critically injured, it might be one of these donations that saves their life.”
The city has long worked with Blood Centers of the Pacific, formerly known as Blood Bank of the Redwoods, to bring the temporary blood donation center to downtown Napa.
Appointment slots are nearly filled up every year, Rhodes said. It’s open to all, but many city employees participate. Blood bank staff even took a walk-in on Tuesday morning.
“(Donating blood) does save lives,” he said. “It’s another branch of what we do here every day at the station.”
Inside the trailer, donors answered questions about their health history and had their vitals taken. Rhodes passed out cups of coffee to staff.
If participants were cleared to donate, they sat in chairs, propped up their arms and squeezed a stress ball as staff looked for a good vein to draw blood from for the next 10 minutes.
After staff collected a pint of blood, donors sat on a bench and sipped water and juice, and ate salty snacks. Those donors will be able to give blood again in eight weeks.
Kim Walsh, who organizes blood drives for Blood Centers of the Pacific, said blood is collected onsite, sent to San Francisco for testing, then shipped back to local hospitals based on what they need.
Giving blood is a great way to give back to the community, she said.
“There’s no substitute for blood,” Walsh said.
Walsh said Blood Centers of the Pacific holds drives at Queen of the Valley three times per year, and at local high schools and the Napa Valley College.
An upcoming blood drive will be held Wednesday, Aug. 21 at the St. Helena Fire Department from 1:30 to 6 p.m. The local Vitalant branch at 3230 Beard Road, Napa Donation Center, is open on Tuesday and Wednesday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Friday and Saturday from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.