Annual blood drive around the corner

Special to the Daily

In celebration of national Emergency Medical Services Week, May 19-25, the Summit County Ambulance Service (SCAS) will be holding a blood drive on Wednesday. Additionally, SCAS will sponsor two Heartsaver First Aid CPR/AED courses for free.

“This is kind of our way to help give back to the community that’s always been amazing to us, as well as doing a blood drive,” said John Avery, a paramedic with SCAS and a member of the SCAS community outreach team.

Two classes will be offered next week at different times to allow options for those who want to join — one on Monday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. and another on Wednesday from 5-9 p.m. at the Community and Senior Center in Frisco. Each class is four hours long and covers basic first aid skills, CPR and AED (automated external defibrillator) training. After a short test at the end, participants will be certified through the American Heart Association.

“It’s a great way not only to save money and get free training, but to also increase the amount of first responders we have in the county,” Avery said.

Minutes count

Having trained people on hand during a medical emergency before the ambulance arrives will increase the likelihood of survival, Avery explained. While calling 911 in a medical emergency is important, in a rural area like Summit County, it may take an ambulance up to 10 minutes or so to respond.

“If it’s a cardiac arrest, the first six minutes are the most important of that person’s life,” he added, “and if there’s someone that’s aware of what’s going on, that knows what to do, to contact 911, to start CPR, to find the external defibrillator, that can, in a lot of cases, mean life or death for the person.”

Since 2004, the “Keep the Beat” Public Access Defibrillation Project has put more than 180 automatic external defibrillators (AEDs) in place throughout Summit County. They can be found in libraries, rec centers, police stations and other public buildings. However, Avery points out, “they’re useless unless people know about them and how to use them.”

Ambulance service

The Summit County Ambulance Service started in the 1970s on a volunteer basis. Since then it has grown and now supplies the county with 24-hour service staff and advanced life support paramedic ambulances.

“As we’ve anticipated the needs for the county, we’ve also grown our expertise into being critical care trained, which is a step above a typical 911 ambulance, in that we are trained to administer more medications (and) trained on higher levels of equipment such as mechanical ventilators and medication pumps,” Avery said.

Because of the nature of geography and weather in Summit County, having paramedics with additional training can make a lot of difference.

“We’re such a rural area that … we tend to spend a lot more time with our patients than a typical ambulance,” Avery said.

Some patients, for example, may need to be transported over to Denver to receive treatment. If the weather on that day happens to be bad enough that the Flight for Life helicopter can’t fly, or if the helicopter is otherwise in use, a patient would need an ambulance. Add bad weather and backed up traffic, and a trip to Denver could take up to six hours, Avery said. Fortunately, Summit County has critical care paramedics, who can begin blood transfusions during transport.

With training and equipment in place, all that’s needed, then, is the blood.

Blood drive

“Obviously, having an adequate blood supply is important everywhere,” said Marc Burdick, director of the Summit County Ambulance Service. “Having a good supply here in the mountains is critical for us, because sometimes getting blood up here with the weather and the road conditions is not easy.”

For next week’s blood drive, SCAS will be working in conjunction with the Bonfils Blood Center, out of Denver. Bonfils supplies blood to hospitals and laboratories throughout the state of Colorado.

Anyone age 18 and older is encouraged to donate blood, while 16- and 17-year-olds can donate as long as they have the written permission of a parent. To learn restrictions on blood donation eligibility, Burdick and Avery suggest visiting the Bonfils website, which provides a list of basic requirements for donation and a short quiz with questions about international travel in the last year and whether or not the donor has recently had tattoos or piercings.

The blood drive will take place Wednesday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Community and Senior Center in Frisco. While walk-ins are welcome, calling ahead to schedule an appointment is recommended. Donating blood should only take up to half an hour, Avery said, and is a relatively painless process.

“It’s a small amount, it’s one pint of blood, that’s replenished very quickly with drinking lots of water,” Avery said. “You also get free chips and cookies, so there’s no reason not to donate.”

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