El Centro Blood Drive: “The One Thing Man Cannot Manufacture is Blood”

LifeStream donor specialist/driver Dario Villegas (partially seen at left) checks on Isabel “Izzy” Gutierrez inside a blood mobile truck, during the LifeStream blood drive Wednesday at El Centro Regional Medical Center. Photo by Joselito Villero

EL CENTRO — Christmas giving continues as several people extended their generosity by donating blood to help someone they may never know. For first time donors, it may be disquieting. However, encouragement from a friend can make blood donation endurable.

Isabel “Izzy” Gutierrez seemed uneasy as she lay on a patient bed December 28 inside the LifeStream blood mobile parked at El Centro Regional Medical Center.

Blood flowed through tubing from her right arm into a special bag that was continuously agitated by a machine.

“This is my first-time donating blood. I’m a little bit scared and nervous,” Gutierrez admitted.

A few minutes later, her friend Sara Fink, also a donor and waiting her turn, reached for her smart phone and took photos of Gutierrez who responded with a smile and by making a “V” or victory sign with her left fingers. Gutierrez and Fink have been friends since their freshmen days at Imperial High School ten years ago, they said.

“It is a little bit scary, if it is your first time,” said Fink, who has been donating blood for the past two years. “But it makes you feel proud of yourself. This will be my fourth successful donation. Today, I feel good.”

“I donate blood because I know there’s a blood shortage; and to help people, and maybe save lives too,” Fink said, justifying her reason for donating blood.

Justice Campbell-Rodriguez, 16, who has donated twice in the past, shared her experience donating blood. “It’s relaxing in a way. The prick on your finger hurts more than the needle. Everyone should donate.”

“It’s mostly to show the importance of donating blood and saving lives of cancer patients, trauma patients and anyone who needs a blood transfusion . It is a life-changing procedure for patients when they do receive it,” explained Alice George, mobile supervisor with LifeStream whose corporate office is based in La Quinta.

“The one thing that man can not manufacture, is blood,” George said.

The blood mobile supervisor said certain protocols need to be followed for donating blood.

Among them, a donor should be well hydrated, weigh a minimum of 110 pounds, eat a good breakfast about an hour before donation, must have good vital signs, and have sufficient iron — an important component of hemoglobin present in the blood, plus answer a series of screening questions. If underage, they must have parental consent.

“And if you pass our screening process, we are more than happy to accept you you as a donor,” George said.

She stated a day’s goal is to get 21 pints from donors in the community. That is one-pint of blood from each donor. One pint, she added, will benefit three adult recipients or eight baby recipients. The LifeStream blood mobile was open for service from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. on Wednesday.

LifeStream provides blood services in Imperial, Riverside, and San Bernardino counties. Recently, they have extended services to Los Angeles County.