Paula Bachmeier gave her first blood donation at age 18, and she hasn't stopped donating since.
To date, she's given 126 units of blood, or nearly 16 gallons. In addition to being a regular donor, Bachmeier coordinates blood drives at her workplace in Minot.
"When I first started donating at 18, my sister and I started a contest to see who could give five gallons first. Then, in 2005, my son was diagnosed with leukemia. During his three and a half years of treatment, he had at least 20 to 25 blood transfusions. Now, it's personal. I really saw the importance of donated blood products," Bachmeier said.
Katina Tengesdal/MDN •
Paula Bachmeier shows a display of recognition plaques she has received from United Blood Services of Minot.
Bachmeier explained that while following her son's progress on the Caring Bridge Web site, she noticed that others couldn't get treatment because blood and plasma wasn't available.
"Blood shortage isn't such an issue in North Dakota, but it happens in other areas. I like to tell people, think of it as your child that needs treatment, and there's no blood available. You'd sure hate to see that happen," Bachmeier said.
While encouraging others to donate blood, Bachmeier has heard her share of excuses. People might say they're afraid of needles, they don't want to pass out, or are worried they might feel sick for the day.
Prairie Profile is a weekly feature profiling interesting people in our region. We welcome suggestions from our readers. Call Regional Editor Eloise Ogden at 857-1944 or Managing Editor Kent Olson at 857-1939. Either can be reached at 1-800-735-3229. You also can send e-mail suggestions to email@example.com.
"When I'd be in the pediatric units, I'd see little two-year-olds getting transfusions. I tell people, now tell me you don't like needles. I tell people, if you pass out, you'll wake up. If you feel sick, you'll feel better tomorrow," Bachmeier said.
"When you donate, it benefits somebody whose life may be at risk if you don't (donate). I may not be able to do CPR if you're having a heart attack, but I can sure give blood if you need it for when you're in an accident or you need it for a treatment," she added.
Blood donors can give every eight weeks, and Bachmeier makes a point of writing on her calendar when she's up for another donation. One of her arms has a lot of scar tissue from donating so often.
"It hurts now to prick that arm. But, if it's going to save a life, it doesn't matter," Bachmeier said.
In addition to her own donations, Bachmeier hopes to encourage others to donate as well. She coordinates one blood drive a year at her workplace, with the last drive producing 36 units of blood. Since the response is good, she's now aiming for two blood drives a year.
She also encourages most people she meets to donate.
"You never really think about going to do it. The only way you're going to do it is if somebody prods you. Then, you prod someone else. It's a snowball effect that you want to have with something like this," Bachmeier said.
"I think when they (United Blood Services) put the panic call out, they get the blood they need. But they shouldn't have to put out that panic call. There are plenty of people in this town that could donate, that don't," she added.