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M d River Uni n
HUMBOLDT – It started in England last year and spread across the world. Now it has infected the masthead of this newspaper.
To emphasize the problem of not enough people giving blood, the letters A, B, and O have been removed from signs all over Humboldt County, from websites, from Facebook accounts, and, look above, from the masthead of the Mad River Union.
Our new name for this week is the M d River Uni n.
And, readers may have noticed, my byline is looking a bit odd.
The missing letters are the main blood groups.
Giving blood is easy, painless, and makes the donor feel good to be of help to others. But donations were down by 40 percent in the last decade in England, so the Missing Type campaign was born. It was so successful there that 30,000 people registered to give blood in just 10 days.
Folks at the blood bank in Humboldt County are hoping for success as well.
On Sunday, John Gullam, Director of Donor Resources at the Northern California Community Blood Bank, climbed on roofs and ladders to cover up letters on the signs of such businesses as Humboldt Bay Pawn and Arcata Exchange.
“Monday and Tuesday, we hoped people would be asking ‘What’s going on?’ and on Wednesday, the newspaper coverage would reveal the reason. Then we’re hoping that folks will jump on board on Thursday, Friday and Saturday,” Gullam said.
Gullam had some good suggestions for what supporters could do. For instance, a temporary Facebook photo could be substituted with the person holding a card with their name, minus the letters A, B and O in the photograph. That’s easier than trying to change the actual name on the Facebook account, he added.
Business owners who want to know more about the campaign can call Gullam at (707) 443-8004.
Even more importantly, everyday people can visit the blood bank or a bloodmobile and donate blood.
Think of the missing letters as a To Do List: donate blood. (Oops, that would be a T D List: d nte l d.)
What’s so important about donating? Why not, we ask ourselves, just let Leroy Murrell do it all? (He’s the barber in McKinleyville who has donated 89 gallons of blood and counting.)
Well, for one thing, Leroy, as cool a guy as he is, only has one type of blood.
(There are eight different blood types and not all are compatible with each other.)
And, another thing, a sudden rash of car accidents or other disasters can skyrocket the need for blood way beyond what Leroy can give.
“We’re very grateful for all the people who come in and donate after hearing about a car accident,” Gullam explained. “But those blood products that were used were already here. We try to get people to realize they can give before the accident or special need,” he added.
One of the reasons is that every unit of blood donated is subjected to extensive testing –17 tests in all – before it can be given to another person who needs it.
Because the nearest testing facility is in Seattle, the blood bank faces huge logistical challenges in getting the test tubes to the lab. Some of the tubes travel by FedEx, but many go by United Airlines.
As any traveler knows, airline travel includes weather and scheduling delays, especially in our area.
“The tubes fly on United to San Francisco, then on a connecting flight to Seattle. Sometimes they have to go through Sacramento, depending on weather and flight schedules,” Gullam said. A courier gets them from the airport to the lab.
So having a consistent flow of donations is important to keeping up the blood supply available in Humboldt County.
“We do have good relationships with other blood centers, such as Sacramento and Stanford, that allow us to manage the inventory,” he said.
Gullam has been with the blood bank for 10 years. Before that he “was home with three kids for three years” and previous to that, at Redwoods United for 14 years. He’s a human services kind of guy.
Who else would spend Sunday climbing on roofs to change signs?
“My teenagers may help me,” he said.
Advanced Display & Signs in Eureka supplied him with “a temporary vinyl sticker material that comes in a big roll,” so he wouldn’t do permanent damage to any signs.
Keep an eye out for strangely edited signs this week and more importantly, give blood if you can. Go in a group and make it a party.
In the old days the blood bank gave a beer to every donor. It’s not that way anymore but the cookies are good.
And you may have just saved a life.
Northern California Community Blood Bank is located at 2524 Harrison Ave. in Eureka, next to St. Joseph Hospital.