Battle of the Badges: Calling all blood-donating heroes!

Linda Saholt

News Review Correspondent

Battle of the Badges: Calling all blood-donating heroes!The challenge has been issued! It’s law enforcement versus firefighters and emergency medical service providers in the fourth annual “Battle of the Badges” blood drive, set for Feb. 20, from noon to 6 p.m.

“We get to go out every day and be heroes in the community,” said Kern County Sheriff Sgt. Paul Leonard. “This drive gives everyone the opportunity to be heroes in the community by donating blood.”

Look for the mobile Houchin Blood Bank unit parked behind the Kerr-McGee Center.

The two groups will challenge each other to see who can get the most units of blood donated. In addition to the challengers themselves donating, members of the public are encouraged to donate blood — and you will be given the opportunity to specify to which team you want your donation credited.

Participating agencies include the Kern County Fire Department, China Lake Fire Department, Ridgecrest Police Department, California Highway Patrol, Kern County Sheriff’s Department and Liberty Ambulance.

Those who come to donate will have an opportunity to meet and speak with uniformed first-responders.

“We won it the first two years, and Fire won it last time,” said Kern County Sheriff’s Deputy Kevin Parsons. “We’ll win it this year.”

“We’re the reigning champs,” said Kern County Firefighter Corey Wilford.

While the challenge is all in good fun, the purpose is quite serious. Every two seconds someone needs blood. Houchin Blood Bank handles all of Kern County’s needs for whole blood and blood products. Since blood has a limited shelf life, the supply always needs replenishing.

“We noticed there’s an annual dip in blood donations in February in Ridgecrest. It was something we wanted to remedy,” said Christina Scrivner, community development account manager for Houchin Blood Bank.

She and Robert OBergfell, retired from the Ridgecrest Police Department, worked together to set up the annual drive and keep it going.

“It’s a matter close to our hearts for all of us who wear a badge,” said OBergfell. “It takes minutes to give a pint of blood and it could save a life, maybe of someone you love.

“All law enforcement personnel are the true front-line responders. So who better to do this? Our friends, family, the greater community — we’re asking everyone to do something that costs nothing and does so much good.

“This is very important for me. I’ve been giving blood for many years. Now I’m throwing down the gauntlet — don’t be a coward, be a hero!”

“Being in the field, we see first hand the critical need for blood and the number of times it’s needed,” said Wilford. “Also you see how far blood can actually go or not go — sometimes it takes many units to support one person.”

Parsons will give blood, as he has so many times before. “It’s a responsibility, giving back to the community. It’s a feel-good for me to do this,” he said.

Erin Cocciolone, paramedic supervisor for Liberty Ambulance, pointed out that those with traumatic injuries are not the only ones who need blood.

“An ordinary citizen can have a gastrointestinal bleed or a need for emergency heart surgery.

“It’s not just the gunshot wounds and car accidents. We’ve picked up patients at their home, and they look grey from loss of blood from internal bleeding. They need blood to survive.”

“It’s all fun and games to have a friendly competition, but the real winners are the patients in our local hospitals,” said Janel Valdez, emergency medical technician for Liberty Ambulance.

Darci Combs, program coordinator at the Grossman Burn Center, San Joaquin Community Hospital in Bakersfield, added some more sobering facts.

“The first week of February is Burn Awareness Week. We treat hundreds of patients a year, and we understand how important the blood product is for recovery. Over 40 percent of the patients we treat are children, and the majority are under age five.”

Most burns suffered by children happen in the home, and many of these are preventable. Look for more information on burn safety in the home in an upcoming article.

For more information on the Houchin Blood Bank and on donating blood, see http://hcbb.com.

Story First Published: 2013-02-06