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Red Cross issues appeal for blood donations

Since the days of the Civil War, the Red Cross has been a key figure in providing blood services in the United States.

In Halifax County, the Red Cross has provided blood services for over 50 years and is the primary source of blood for Halifax Regional Hospital.

Today, the Red Cross is making an urgent appeal to the public for more blood donations.

Ginger Weaver, military and service coordinator for the Halifax Chapter of the Virginia Capital Region Red Cross, praised the community’s efforts for stepping up to the plate and making donations during recent blood drives.

“The American Legion drive in South Boston on July 9 and the Mary Bethune Drive in Halifax on July 10, both surpassed their goals,” Weaver said.

But more donations are needed, as the supply remains scarce this time of year due to the lack of sponsors and available donors. 

So many people are busy traveling, and the recent severe storms have only added to the critical need and shortage, according to Laura Dooley, account manager working blood services in the Appalachian Region of the Red Cross.

American Red Cross blood collections have been significantly disrupted by the severe storms that hit the Midwest and mid-Atlantic areas. More donations are critically needed, and people who can give are being urged to do so now, she said.

Power outages, fallen trees and other storm impacts mean that blood donors have been unable to get to donor centers and blood drives. Dozens of Red Cross blood drives have been cancelled, resulting in the shortfall of nearly 1,700 donations of blood and platelets, Dooley said.

Making matters worse, Independence Day week is a time when families go on vacation, schools are out of session, and many companies do not host blood drives because their employees are on extended leave. 

In fact, blood supplies were already at emergency levels with June blood donations coming in 50,000 fewer than expected, Dooley said. 

Because of that, the Red Cross recently issued a national blood appeal, and the latest round of storms may severely impact the ability to build the blood inventory back up to sufficient levels in many locations.

Here in Halifax County, Dooley said blood donors will have opportunities to give blood to build up the bank on Monday, July 30, from 1 to 7 p.m. at American Legion Post 8 on Jeffress Boulevard in South Boston. 

Then the next day on Tuesday, July 31, from noon to 6 p.m. a bloodmobile will be set up at the Mary Bethune gym on Cowford Road in Halifax.

Another blood drive will take place at Winns Creek Baptist Church on Howard P. Anderson Road in Halifax on Saturday, Aug. 4, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Running the monthly community drives are two new co-chairmen and chairperson including Alex Tucker, Tom Beckham and Linda Beckham.

When announcing the emergency appeal for blood, Dooley explained patients don’t get a holiday from needing blood products. Every two seconds, a patient in the United States needs a blood transfusion. 

“Thousands of blood donations are needed every day to meet the needs of accident victims, cancer patients and children with blood disorders. These patients and others rely on lifesaving blood products during their treatment and those whose lives may be touched by a donor’s generosity will be forever grateful,” Dooley added.

According to Dooley, the Red Cross provides 42 percent of the blood used in the United States. They are primary and second sources for many hospitals in the United States.

“The most difficult part of collecting blood is trying to get donors and sponsors,” Dooley said.

Dooley’s monthly goal is to collect anywhere from 550 to 600 pints of blood a month.

“When we are able to provide adequate blood and the right type of mix, then hospitals are able to handle emergency situations as elective surgery,” Dooley said.

Dooley usually gets at least 35 donors a drive. 

Potential donors are welcome to donate every 56 days for up to six times a year.

“The gratification is instant. We’re not doing research for cure or something in the future. We’re asking for something that doesn’t cost much and just takes an hour of your time that could save a life now,” Dooley said.

The four key factors needed to produce a successful blood drive, according to Dooley, are an adequate facility, volunteers, canteen and donors being the most vital part of the drive.

“The most important parts of the drive are the donors. Without them we can not collect the blood,” Dooley said.

A donor can expect to get one of the best physicals they ever had when they come to give blood, according to Dooley.

Donors must have their blood pressure, temperature, iron and hemoglobin checked. This is not only for the safety of the recipient but for the safety of the donor as well.

 “Safety of our donors is our main concern,” Dooley said. “We don’t want to take your blood if it is going to jeopardize your health.”

After giving blood, the Red Cross provides the donors with basic canteen kits, which can include nabs, pretzels, cookies, apple juice, orange juice and water.

“We do a canteen to first give a chance for the patient to sit down for 10 minutes, so we can make sure they’re alright, second get their sugar levels up, and third so they can mingle and fellowship with other donors,” Dooley said. 

In addition to blood services the Red Cross offers disaster assistance, health and safety training, military emergency services and international services.

According to Weaver, the Red Cross has been active in Halifax since July 17, 1917 and in the United States over a century.