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Blood donations: An important way to give during the holiday season

By VICTORIA L. CANN

The Exponent Telegram

CLARKSBURG, W.Va. — Donating blood can help save lives. And during winter, blood donations are a vital aspect to the mission of the American Red Cross.

Regina Boothe Bratton, external communications manager, said the Red Cross in is critical need of blood and platelet donations this time of year.

“With regular donors traveling and busy holidays, we are encouraging new and repeat donors to give this holiday season,” she said. “I say it’s the perfect gift because you are giving the gift of life.”

When donating blood, only a pint is taken, and Bratton explained that one pint of blood potentially can save three lives.

“To put it in perspective, we need 14,000 donations every day for patients in need such as cancer patients and babies in the NICU, accident victims and natural disasters,” she said.

This is for what the Red Cross does on a daily basis, not including the agency’s humanitarian disaster relief.

The Red Cross supplies hospitals and medical centers with about 40 percent of their blood supply.

“It’s a statistical fact that more accidents happen during the winter months,” Bratton said. “There are more automobile accidents with slick roads and winter weather, as well as a higher risk for fires after Christmas.”

It’s important to think of donating blood as a national issue, Bratton said. Not only does the Red Cross supply blood locally, but across the country.

“There’s always something going on, no matter where you are. We have to be prepared and alert to respond,” she said. “It’s especially crucial to have a healthy blood supply with the likelihood of hurricanes, even though the season just ended.”

Ben Wilson, district manager for the Red Cross, said the need for blood is constant even in North Central West Virginia.

“We service local hospitals in the area, and they are constantly utilizing the blood,” he said. “It’s the giving time of year, and this is people literally giving a part of themselves to help save someone else’s life.”

When people take the time to donate blood and realize what it means, it’s pretty amazing, Wilson said.

“This is one of the cheapest things you can do to save someone’s life. It’s one of the more selfless things you can do, especially during the holidays, to donate blood and help someone,” he said.

This is a critical time of the year, Bratton said. For people unsure about donating blood or who don’t know how to go about doing so, she said the Red Cross does everything to provide a positive experience.

“Our technical staff are professionals who are trained, constantly taking training programs and updating their knowledge base,” she said. “We have rules and regulations from the federal government that we have to follow.”

Bratton said donors are able to donate every 56 days, and the Red Cross is looking for all types of blood.

“Type O positive is the most common and can be transfused anytime. Type O negative is what emergency personnel need for trauma victims, but we are looking for all blood types,” she said.

Wilson said the Red Cross has found the No. 1 reason people don’t give blood is because they aren’t asked to. He said he would encourage people to give blood, even just once.

“We depend on folks to have that giving mentality; to come help us out, so we can help the hospitals help their patients,” he said. “I would encourage our regular donors to ask others to donate as well. One of the coolest things you can do is help save someone’s life.”

 Those who choose to donate blood between this Thursday and Jan. 8 will receive a free long-sleeved Red Cross T-shirt while supplies last.

For more information about the American Red Cross, giving blood or local blood drives, visit www.redcrossblood.org.

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