Everyday heroes can be found at the blood bank

When you think of the title superhero, the image of a caped crusader comes to mind, leaping tall buildings in a single bound, fighting crime and saving the world from evil. Or maybe your personal heroes reside a little closer to reality, in the form of firefighters, police officers, military personnel or doctors and nurses. It’s relatively easy to bestow hero status on individuals who step up unselfishly to help save lives. After all, that’s what heroes do.

Sometimes it’s a bit more difficult to recognize some of the everyday heroes in our midst. Sometimes the only badge of honor they wear is a tiny Band-Aid covering the site where they shared a pint-size donation at the local blood bank.

It’s an amazing fact that an individual who donates blood at the suggested frequency of once every 56 days has the potential to save 18 lives per year. While it’s not quite as dramatic as saving the entire population of Metropolis, it can mean the world to the families of those 18 individuals.

Beyond the obvious use in emergency rooms, donated blood is also used to treat a number of other conditions, including severe burns, sickle cell disease and hemophilia, as well as in the treatment of many types of cancer and autoimmune disorders. A safe and consistent supply of blood is essential to the health and safety of our community.

While the year-round demand for blood is relatively stable (it does bump up slightly in the summer) donations drop off this time of year, challenging the supply side of the equation at local blood banks. As their steady, regular donors and reliable school blood drives take time away for vacation, stores of blood are depleted, sometimes to dangerous levels. Therefore, they’re always anxious to add new donors to their database.

In the days following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, 2,321 people in Western Washington showed up and many stood in line to give blood, and nearly half of them were first-time donors. It shouldn’t take a national crisis to inspire that kind of support.

While blood bank donors won’t need to find an empty phone booth for a quick change to return to their everyday lives, they do require a few quiet minutes of recovery, a glass of juice and a cookie – a small but heartfelt reward for an everyday hero who steps up to help save a life.