Millersville women’s lacrosse coach Mia Hall and members of her team donate blood Wednesday.

Millersville University women’s lacrosse coach Mia Hall donates blood at the Lancaster General Health/Penn Medicine outpatient pavilion.

THE ISSUE

The Central Pennsylvania Blood Bank, which supplies 15 area hospitals — including Lancaster Regional Medical Center, Heart of Lancaster Regional Medical Center and Ephrata Community Hospital — is in need of blood donors. Since 2012, the blood bank has seen donations decline by about 14 percent. The Lancaster General Health/Penn Medicine Blood Donor Center has seen donations drop by nearly a third in that span.

Picture in your mind a needle. Are you cringing? If so, you’re not alone.

According to Healthline.com, 20 percent of the population has some degree of fear associated with needles, and as much as 10 percent suffer from trypanophobia, or a fear of needles and injections. The phobia causes many people to avoid regular medical checkups and routine tests and shots.

Many have also steered clear of donating blood, Central Pennsylvania Blood Bank spokesman Jay Wimer said.

Wimer said a fear of needles is one “obvious” reason why the region and the country have seen dips in blood donations over the past several years. And the American Red Cross website states the two most common reasons why people don’t give blood: “Never thought about it” and “I don’t like needles.”

Wimer admitted to having a fear of needles, but he said that after giving blood, he realized he had made it “a much (bigger) deal than it really is.”

“It’s really just a pinch,” he said. “A lot of times, I don’t even feel it.”

The “pinch” comes a few steps into the blood donation process, which takes up to an hour.

  • The first step is to make sure donors eat a wholesome meal and stay hydrated before they donate blood.
  • At the donation site, donors are asked for basic information: name, address, phone numbers.
  • Then comes the “mini physical,” as Wimer described it, which checks blood pressure, pulse and iron levels — this requires a small prick of the finger.
  • The examination precedes a more extensive interview; the donor is asked questions regarding travel, medical history, sexual activity, drug use and previous needle sticks (such as tattoos). This is for the safety of both the donor and patient who ultimately receives the blood.
  • Then, the needle — a new, unused, clean needle. The donor lies down, and a trained phlebotomist disinfects the arm before drawing blood. The blood draw can take five to 10 minutes.
  • When it’s all over, donors sit down for refreshments and recover.

That doesn’t sound too bad, right? Add incentives like the occasional T-shirt, movie tickets, Lancaster Barnstormers tickets, ice cream vouchers and more given out at some blood drives, it even sounds fun. Bring friends. Bring the family.

We urge Lancaster County residents to donate blood — and, as a result, help patients around the county.

Hospitals in the region transfuse approximately 275 pints per day, according to a press release from the Central Pennsylvania Blood Bank. Nationally, approximately 36,000 units of blood are needed every day.

That’s more than 13 million units every year.

Yet, although about 38 percent of the U.S. population is eligible to donate, less than 10 percent actually do.

We hope more people realize the importance of giving blood and the slim risk that comes with it.

“To give blood is really to save a life,” Wimer said.

There are at least two blood drives in the area today. (Please click the links below for April's full schedule.)

The Central Pennsylvania Blood Bank is hosting a blood drive from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. at Root’s Country Market and Auction, 705 Graystone Road, Manheim.

Lancaster General and Penn Medicine will host a blood drive from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Solanco High School, 585 Solanco Road, Quarryville.

And try this again: Picture a needle. Now replace that image in your mind with that of a family member by the hospital bed of a loved one who’s just received a life-saving blood transfusion.

The needle isn’t so scary now, is it?