12/11/06 — Blood supply is facing shortage

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Blood supply is facing shortage

By Becky Barclay
Published in News on December 11, 2006 1:45 PM

Local Red Cross officials are sending out an SOS for blood as the annual holiday drought of donors has left supplies low here at home and nationwide.

The nation's blood supply is dwindling. Four types -- O negative, O positive, B negative and A negative -- are in emergency status, which means there is less than a day and a half supply on hand, said Samia Garner, blood director for the Wayne County Chapter of the American Red Cross.

"We don't even have enough should there be an emergency," Mrs. Garner said.

The low levels are not a surprise, she added. Busy shoppers, travel out of town and children's holiday schedules take many regular donors out of the routine of giving.

Mrs. Garner said that this year has been even more difficult than normal for collections.

"But we have to figure out how to fit in giving blood because of the little girl who has leukemia or the grandmother who needs a hip replacement or the teenager who's in a terrible car accident," she said. "Those things still happen and they still require enormous amounts of blood. And we've got to make sure it's there."

To help replenish the blood supply and also help the needy at Christmas, two special blood drives are being held. The first is set for Tuesday from 2 to 6:30 p.m. at the Red Cross chapter, 600 N. George St.

For every unit of blood collected, the CAPS group (an employee group) at Butterball will donate a ham to a needy Wayne County family during the holidays.

The goal is 30 units of blood, Mrs. Garner said.

A similar drive last year netted 24 units of blood and 24 hams for needy families, she added.

Giving blood Tuesday will allow donors to do double duty when it comes to giving.

"By people giving blood that day, not only will they be saving three lives with that blood, but they will also help a family in need have a nice holiday with a ham," Mrs. Garner said.

Donors also will receive a special Red Cross ornament for participating.

For those who cannot donate Tuesday, Red Cross volunteers also will sponsor the third annual Bank Challenge, Invest In Life, Wednesday from 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. at the chapter house.

Mrs. Garner said that at this drive, employees of local financial institutions give blood. Banks encourage their customers to give blood, too.

"Banks draw a line in the sand for other banks and lending institutions to see which one can get the most folks to come in and donate blood," Mrs. Garner said.

The nine financial institutions that participated in last year's Bank Challenge collected 35 units of blood. This year's goal is 50 units of blood, with the Red Cross hoping to get about 20 financial institutions to take part.

Geoff Kokiko, city executive of KS Bank, is the honorary chairman. "We're confident that we are going to meet the goal," he said. "And we're excited about participating.

"Every unit of blood we collect has the ability of saving at least three lives. During the holidays, the blood supplies do get thin."

Kokiko is encouraging everyone, not just bank employees, to give blood at the Bank Challenge.

"The banks have been very supportive and very civic-minded about this. It's making a difference during the holiday season," Mrs. Garner said.

Donors at the Bank Challenge will receive gift bags.

The banks will compete for a chance to display the floating trophy until next year's challenge.

Reigning champions, BB&T will try to fend off challenges from the other participants to hold onto their title.

Mrs. Garner said the Red Cross is excited about both blood drives.

"The gift of blood is a gift that doesn't even need to be wrapped. What more precious gift can you give than the gift of life?" she said. "When you give blood, you give another Christmas, another birthday, another chance at life."