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Originally published: 2012-12-17 15:21:24
Last modified: 2012-12-17 15:21:24

Give Blood, Give Hope

by Sherrie Norris

Give blood, give hope. That's the message being shared by the American Red Cross, which recognizes that blood is the perfect gift for this holiday season. 

The period between Thanksgiving and New Year celebrations typically require more blood than at most other times of the year.

It's the one gift that money cannot buy, but it can bring more smiles, joy, hugs -- and most importantly, time.

According to the American Red Cross, every two seconds someone in the United States needs blood. The organization's Carolina Blood Services Region -- of which Watauga County belongs -- provides lifesaving blood to patients in 103 hospitals.

About 1,600 people need to give blood or platelets each weekday to meet hospital demand.

"We are not currently experiencing a critical blood shortage," said Revonda Wood, area donor recruitment representative, "but that can change at any time."

Having an adequate blood supply on hand is crucial, Wood said, "especially during the holidays."

The next opportunity to donate blood is during the upcoming Media Blood Drive from 9 a.m. to p.m. on Friday, Dec. 21, at Watauga High School.

This particular drive, sponsored by Mountain Times Publications and Charter Media, has quickly risen as a community favorite, coming in among the top three donor events in the High Country, following closely behind those at Watauga County High School and Appalachian State University. 

"Blowing Rock Rotary is right up there near the top, too," Wood said.

Wood said she recognized that many people are busier than usual during this holiday season and with increased community activities, the last thing that many people want to think about is finding an extra hour to give blood. 

"But, it's an important time to give blood," she said. "You just have to think about it as giving a gift -- and helping save a life is the greatest gift you can give anyone."

This time of year, when the needs seem to be the greatest, fewer people are donating, she said. 

"Everyone is so busy right now and fewer drives are scheduled with our regular hosts, such as schools and churches. Schools are closing and churches are busy with seasonal activities," she said.

The first Media Drive in 2011 was pretty amazing, Wood said. "We exceeded our goal of 100 units by 15 and had to send several donors to another drive we were having at a different location that day. The others that have followed have been just as impressive."

While drop-ins are always welcome, Wood stressed the need for appointments. 

"We do take those first who have preregistered," she said. "We never want to turn anyone away. Some people are easily frustrated when they have to wait very long, but a simple call to schedule a convenient time slot will help alleviate added stress. That's something that nobody needs this time of year."

Wood expressed appreciation for the two local host groups that have put Boone on the map for generous blood donations.

All blood types are needed to help maintain a sufficient blood supply, especially type O negative, Wood said. 

"Type O negative is the universal blood type and is always in high demand. It can be transfused to patients with any blood type, especially in emergency situations," she said. 

Donating blood is one of the easiest ways to spread holiday cheer, Wood said.

Wood said donors can give blood every 56 days and that "most healthy people," age 17 and older, or 16 with parental consent, and who weigh at least 110 pounds, are eligible to donate blood and platelets.

Potential donors who are 18 and younger must also meet specific height and weight requirements.

"We encourage everyone to support this week's Media Drive and help us once again exceed our goal, which has been extended to 150 units," Wood said. "Donors will have a chance to win neat door prizes and raffles again, and leave knowing they are making a difference in someone's life. What better way to celebrate the holidays?"

All presenting blood and platelet donors will be automatically entered into drawings for prizes, including an iPad.

To schedule your appointment, or to learn how your church, community or civic group can host a blood drive, call (828) 898-2325 or 1-800-RED CROSS or visit redcrossblood.org.