Blood Donation Changes Could Boost Participation

At Coffee Memorial Blood Center, less people are filling these seats to give the gift of life.

"Most people don't think about it until the time comes and the doctor says, 'Your son needs two units of blood or five units of blood or he is going to die,'" said Dr. Mary Townsend, Coffee Memorial Medical Director.

That's exactly what happened with the Varelas. 18-year-old Luis suffered a tragic accident last year and needed several blood transfusions. But finding blood for him was a challenge because he has a rare blood type--AB positive.

"If someone is requiring rare blood," Townsend said. "Your best way to find it is through a family member or someone from that race."

The problem is that Hispanics are not giving like other races. Donations from this group are down 20 percent from last year.

"You know, they are scared, they are worried," said Imelda Cano, special procedure coordinator. "They don't understand the process."

Which is why the blood center is changing that process. Soon they will no longer require a Social Security number in order to give.  They say this could increase donations among the Hispanic population.

"I think it could cause the only thing we are going to be looking at after we get beyond that is how long they have been here and if they've lived in a Malaria-risk area, that sort of thing," Cano said.

After that, Cano says their donation could save someone, like Luis, in his time of need.