Greg Gallion

Greg Gallion is the president and chief executive officer of Bakersfield-based Houchin Community Blood Bank.

Low gas prices and growing personal incomes are fueling Americans’ itch to hit the road over the Memorial Day weekend. According to the Automobile Association of America, nearly 34 million Americans are expected to be traveling May 27-30.

The insurance company predicts 89 percent of these travelers will be driving to their Memorial Day destinations. This is the first increase in cross-country travel in the U.S. since the great recession hit in the mid-2000s, when Americans curtailed their travel and entertainment plans.

“Americans are eagerly awaiting the start of summer and are ready to travel in numbers not seen in more than a decade,” Marshall Doney, president and CEO of AAA, told the media. “The great American road trip is officially back thanks to low gas prices, and millions of people from coast to coast are ready to kick off summer with a Memorial Day getaway.”

Accompanying this “great getaway” are great risks -- expected increases in traffic accidents and demand for blood products from blood banks, such as Kern County’s Houchin Community Blood Bank.

It is not a coincidence that May also is national Trauma Awareness Month, an observation established in 1988 by former President Ronald Reagan. According to the National Trauma Institute, trauma accounts for 41 million emergency department visits and 2.3 million hospital admissions a year.

In observance of Trauma Awareness Month and in preparation for the Memorial Day holiday, Houchin Community Blood Bank is urging all eligible donors to give blood, plasma or platelets to help ensure lifesaving blood products are available to respond to emergencies, including vehicle accidents.

A single car accident victim can require as many as 100 units of blood. It is critical that Houchin be prepared for this expected need with a good supply of all types of blood products, including platelets and plasma.

Houchin provides blood products to every hospital and transfusion center in Kern County. When seconds matter, having a readily available blood supply is critical to trauma patient care. When there is no time to determine a patient’s blood type, such as in trauma situations, universal blood products, which are O red cells, coupled with AB plasma and platelets, are what emergency personnel reach for first.

Less than 7 percent of the population has type O- blood, 37 percent has O+ blood, and only about 4 percent has type AB blood. Donors with these blood types are an important part of the trauma team and are encouraged to donate their universally accepted blood products as often as possible.

Regrettably, we have experienced trauma situations that have wiped out Houchin’s supplies of these universal blood types, requiring us to bring in products from sister blood banks to respond to the next patient.

“There has been a significant amount of research regarding how to best replace blood lost due to traumatic injury,” explains Dr. Ruby Skinner, chief of trauma services and director of surgical critical care at Kern Medical, our local Level II trauma hospital. “The management of our injured soldiers in the Middle East has been the source of the majority of the research and has guided transfusion practices in the civilian sector. The replacement of not only packed red blood cells, but also of equal volumes of plasma and platelets, has proven to be lifesaving.

“In fact, death rates due to major injury and blood loss have dropped significantly with the aggressive transfusion of plasma and platelets in the setting of massive blood loss,” she said.

May also begins Houchin’s “Summer Pledge” campaign to encourage blood donations during the high-demand vacation season. Donations of all blood types are needed to provide the variety of blood products required to respond to patient needs.

Many people erroneously believe they aren’t able to donate because they take medication. The list of medications precluding blood donation is actually very short. More information is available at 661-323-4222.

Donors need to be in good health, 17 years of age, and weigh 110 pounds. Sixteen year olds can donate with parental consent. Donor centers are located at 5901 Truxtun Ave. and 11515 Bolthouse Drive in Bakersfield. Hours are Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday 9-6, Thursday 11-7, and Saturday 8-2. The donor centers are closed on Sundays.

Greg Gallion is the president and chief executive officer of Bakersfield-based Houchin Community Blood Bank.

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