Valley Residents Donate Blood Plasma and Pay It Forward

(L) Phlebotomist Norma Rosales prepares Mona Smith (R) who donated her fifth gallon of blood plasma Tuesday afternoon during the Pioneers Medical Group blood drive.

BRAWLEY – On the surface, Barbara Nilson is just an average gal. She retired as a math teacher from Imperial Valley College and now dedicates herself to her grandchildren. But it’s what’s under the surface that makes her extraordinary, specifically, what’s flowing in her veins. Nilson donated blood plasma for the ninety-second time Tuesday afternoon during the Pioneers Medical Group Blood Drive.

“My husband and I have been donating blood since we were in our twenties,” said Nilson, a Holtville resident. “We are over 60 years old now and we continue to donate.”

Nilson said she and her husband began donating blood plasma after he suffered injuries from a severe accident at the age of 27.

“My husband was in a very serious accident when he was 27 and should have died, and needed blood, so after that, we both started donating,” she explained.

To date, both the Nilsons have donated over 30 gallons of blood plasma and the couple encourages others to do the same.

“Everyone that is able should donate because they never know when they might need it,” said Mrs. Nilson. “It’s one the most valuable things you can do, that only you (donor) can do and it doesn’t cost anything. It’s easy and it’s not painful. It only takes a little bit of time.”

The blood drive was held Monday, August 9 and Tuesday, August 10, in the Pioneers Memorial Hospital parking lot. By noon Tuesday, bloodmobile driver and specialist Ricardo Amaya said over 50 people had already donated and over 60 pints of blood had been collected.

“When we hold blood drives in Imperial Valley, we usually get about 70 people who donate,” said Amaya. “The blood that is collected is distributed among hospitals that need it.”

Donors were advised to drink plenty of fluids and maintain their usual eating habits on the day of donation, however avoiding fatty foods if possible.

Donor Susan Roby donated blood plasma for the second time and said she believes it was a way of helping save lives.

“My sister almost lost my niece while giving birth, and if someone wouldn’t have donated then, we wouldn’t have them (referring to her sister and niece),” said Roby. “This is definitely something I want to continue to do.”

Holtville resident Mona Smith has Rh-negative blood type and donated her fifth gallon Tuesday.

“I have a rare blood type so I want to help somebody else that has it, because we as Rh-negative cannot receive any other blood type,” said Smith. “I’m just paying it forward.”

Donors must wait at least eight weeks (56 days) between donations of whole blood and 16 weeks (112 days) between red cell donations. Platelet apheresis donors may give every seven days up to 24 times per year. Regulations are different for those giving blood for themselves (autologous donors).