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Donors needed for upcoming blood drives

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By Calen McKinney

Though the supply is steady right now, the Red Cross encourages people to donate blood during the upcoming summer months, when donations typically decline.

And Taylor Countians have several upcoming chances to help.

Katy Maloy, program manager for communications at the American Red Cross office in Louisville, says a patient in the United States needs blood every two seconds.

"The Red Cross needs to collect 17,000 blood donations every day to meet the needs of patients at approximately 3,000 hospitals and transfusion centers across the country," she said.

"The blood supply is currently sufficient. But with eligible donors traditionally making less time in their schedules to donate during the summer months, the Red Cross reminds others about the importance of an adequate blood supply.

"The need for blood is constant and the blood supply must be regularly replenished. That is why it is so important that generous donors give regularly."

Blood and platelets collected during donation are needed for patients with many serious medical conditions, Maloy said, from car crash and burn victims to heart surgery and organ transplant patients and those receiving treatment for leukemia, cancer or sickle cell disease.

Taylor Countians wanting to make sure the Red Cross blood supply stays stable can donate at one of several drives in the next few weeks.

A drive is scheduled for Monday, June 10, from 1 to 6 p.m. at Walmart. Walmart will also host a drive on Monday, July 8, from 2 to 7 p.m.

Another drive will be Tuesday, June 25, from 2 to 7 p.m. at Campbellsville Christian Church.

Drives are regularly added to the schedule, so those interested should visit www.redcrossblood.org for those recently added.

And the Red Cross has planned several special events to boost donor numbers and encourage residents to donate.

Those who give blood or platelets between now and May 31 will be entered into a drawing for a $1,000 gift card, Maloy said.

Those who donate between July 1 and 15 will be entered to win a $3,000 gift card.

And those who donate around the Labor Day holiday, Aug. 26 from Sept. 9, will also be entered to win a $1,000 gift card.

Maloy said the Red Cross has launched its Summer of Stories campaign to share stories from those whose lives have been touched by blood donation.

"The campaign also reminds donors that their blood or platelet donations can help save the lives of patients in need, giving them the chance to create their own summer of stories," Maloy said.

"Eligible blood and platelet donors are encouraged to give regularly, especially around summer holidays when donations often decline."

Maloy said family vacations, holidays and summer activities often cause conflicts with blood donation appointments. She said it's important, however, that people still remember blood is needed, from both adults and younger donors.

"Young donors play an important part in fulfilling the Red Cross mission," she said. "Blood donors at high school and college blood drives account for as much as 20 percent of donations during the school year, but donations from students drop by more than 80 percent when school is out for summer. And, half as many 18- to 24-year-old donors give blood during the summer months compared with the rest of the year."

Maloy said donated blood is perishable. Red blood cells have a shelf life of 42 days. Platelets last just five days, she said, and that means having blood donated at a constant rate is very important.

"There is no substitute for donated blood."

Those potentially eligible to donate must be at least 17, or 16 with parental permission in Kentucky, weigh at least 110 pounds and be in good general health.

High school students and other donors 18 years old and younger also have to meet certain height and weight requirements, Maloy said.

After blood is donated, it is sent to Red Cross laboratories.

At the lab, Maloy said blood is separated into three components, red cells, platelets and plasma, and samples are sent for testing to ensure they are safe for patients. Blood components are then sent to hospitals as needed, she said, and doctors determine when a patient needs a transfusion and which part of the donated blood they need.

For those who might be hesitant to donate because of a fear of needles, Maloy says most donors agree that giving blood isn't painful.

"They liken the procedure to a small pinch on the inner arm," she said.

For more information about donating blood and upcoming drives, visit www.redcrossblood.org or call (800) RED-CROSS.

Upcoming Blood Drives

• Monday, June 10 - Walmart Supercenter from 1 to 6 p.m.

• Tuesday, June 25 - Campbellsville Christian Church from 2 to 7 p.m.

• Monday, July 8 - Walmart Supercenter from 2 to 7 p.m.