"We're trying to start something that can benefit our communities," she said.
"The majority of the community is not well-informed on the necessity of the blood services. We are the poorest donors in the nation," said Somoza.
Southern California hospitals have to import more than 40 percent of their blood from out of state.
"What's happening in Southern California?" asked Somoza. "What's happening is we're not being told what are the requirements for donors, why we need to donate. In other words, we haven't been properly informed."
She said the American Red Cross in the Imperial Valley and San Diego is trying to organize a campaign of education for the public. She said hospitals need blood from 11 percent of eligible donors for optimum results.
"Fortunately, the American Red Cross is a national and international organization which helps in providing blood for those communities that don't have a blood donation program," said Somoza.
She said many surgeries in Southern California have been postponed because of lack of blood in hospitals.
This summer about 50 percent of daily surgeries in the region had to be postponed because of lack of blood.
She told the story of a person who had been awaiting an organ transplant for three years.
Finally, the organ needed was available earlier this year. The surgery was scheduled as the organ was en route to the hospital.
When the organ arrived, the hospital did not have any blood for the transplant, so the organ had to be given to another person in another city with a hospital that did have blood.
"The sad thing is we don't know if this person can survive long enough to wait for another organ," said Somoza.
"Let's not wait until unfortunate things happen to our family, cousins and force us to become donors. Let's prevent the situation by becoming a donor now," she said.
Somoza outlined the requirements to be eligible to donate blood.
· Age 17 or older.
· Weigh a minimum of 110 pounds.
· In healthy condition.
Somoza addressed some of the myths of blood donation.
"People with high blood pressure, diabetes, asthma or common allergies think they can't donate but they can as long as it's under control," she said.
If an individual has a tattoo the person can donate a year after acquiring the tattoo.
Those with body piercings have a one-year wait unless it was done by a professional parlor, after which there is no wait. Ear piercings do not require a wait.
People on preventive antibiotics are eligible to donate at any time. Individuals using antibiotics because of a recent illness or infection must wait 24 hours after taking the last dosage before being eligible to donate blood.
Repeat donors must wait 56 days before donating again.
"One blood donation can help save the life of three people," Somoza said.
That is because the blood is divided into three components — plasma, red cells and platelets.
Plasma is used to aid those who have been severely burned. Platelets are used for people who have cancer, and red cells are used for premature babies and people who need surgery.
"It's a gift of life that can be given by the whole world, from the rich to the poor," she said.
For more information on the American Red Cross blood services in the Imperial Valley call 352-4541.
Staff Writer Mario Rentería can be reached at 337-3435.