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Businesses play vital role in assuring adequate blood supply

Business blood drives save lives. A lot of them. The Mississippi Blood Services reports that about 55% of the blood in the Mississippi Blood Services system comes from mobile blood drives that are primarily based at businesses.

“Businesses are a huge part of the solution,” said Kelly Scrivner, manager of communications and public relations for Mississippi Blood Services. “They are supporting their community. They are helping save lives. Their own employees are customers, as well. It is everyone’s business to help save lives, and we appreciate the support of all the businesses in the community that hold blood drives with us.”

Giving blood usually takes anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour because of the questions and all the screening processes. It can disrupt the work day to do blood drives, but efforts are made to make it as convenient as possible. One solution is bringing the blood drive to the business.

“We have community representatives who help set up the blood drive,” Scrivner said. “They work with the blood drive chairperson at the company and handle a lot of the logistics. We also provide the businesses with marketing materials like posters and flyers and give as much information as possible so can answer questions from employees. We also have medical director on staff who can answer any questions. Phlebotomists or donor technicians are highly trained to answer questions.”

When organizing a blood drive, Mississippi Blood Services encourages businesses to take advantage of setting appointments so that everyone doesn’t show up to give blood at the same time. Appointments are made in 15-minute increments.

“We also anticipate how many people are going to give blood to make sure we have enough staff members to handle the crowds,” Scrivner said “We don’t want them waiting 20 minutes, so it is important. Blue Cross Blue Shield holds wonderful blood drives for us. We have state government departments, such as the Department of Education, that also participate. There are some businesses that do a terrific job of organizing the blood drives. For example, we go to Nissan, the big plant in Canton, twice a year. Nissan is our largest blood drive by far every year.”

Dave Boyer, vice president of manufacturing, Nissan North America in Canton, said Nissan-Canton’s employees are proud to give back to the communities in which they live and work.

“Many employees have personally experienced the value of this life-changing service when friends or family members have needed blood,” Boyer said. “Corporately, Nissan always tries to be a good neighbor in our city and state.”

In the last two years, Nissan has been able to hone its schedule by allowing for one employee from each workgroup to donate blood each hour. This allows time for employees to go to the donation site, complete the donation process, rest the required amount of time, and get back to their work stations without disrupting their workgroups’ productivity. Day and night shift employees actively participate in its twice-yearly blood drives.

“With each blood drive, Nissan employees donate more pints of blood,” Boyer said. “When we first began holding drives in the fall of 2002, we had substantially fewer employees and a donation of a little more than 100 units. Four years later, our employment numbers have increased and in our November 2006 drive, employees donated 740 pints. Since the fall of 2002, Nissan has contributed a total of 3,840 units. And, if three lives can be saved with each unit, that’s 11,520 lives our employees have helped to save. We are looking forward to increasing our numbers in future drives and helping save even more Mississippians’ lives.”

In addition to helping save lives, there can be some other benefits to individuals and companies from donating blood. For example, Mississippi Blood Services offers a donor protection plan that is like an insurance policy for blood.

Starting 15 days after your donation, the donor and his or her immediate family’s blood needs are covered for the next year for up to $10,000 of blood needs.

If a group or business donates a certain percentage at a drive, everyone in the organization is covered by a donor protection policy. All members of a group will be protected for one year if 25% of the group membership (minimum of 25 members) or family units donate.

Scrivner said it is always going to be an ongoing challenge having an adequate blood supply. While 60% of the population could give blood, less than 5% are providing all of the blood needed. And of that small percentage, there are different blood types. Only 7% will have O negative blood. O negative is the universal blood donor type that can be used by anyone. It is used in emergency rooms.

“Typically those situations call for a lot of blood at one time,” Scrivner said. “You can deplete your inventory of that particular blood type very quickly. But it is always better, once you get someone typed, to get their exact blood type. Some situations call for ongoing blood transmission such as sickle cell anemia and leukemia and cancer patients.”

It is estimated that 95% of the population by age 72 needs a blood product.

Blood donor technicians give donors a mini-physical before extracting the blood. In some cases, that catches previously undiagnosed problems such as high blood pressure. Some blood services also provide blood test results such as cholesterol screening. For example, this year anyone who donates three times to Mississippi Blood Services will receive a voucher for a complimentary lipid profile, which is a group of tests that can serve as an early indicator of risks for heart disease. Total cholesterol, HDL-cholesterol, LDL-cholesterol and triglycerides are tested, and confidential results will be mailed to the donor.

“This is a service we are going to offer as a way to say ‘thank you’ to our donors,” Scrivner said. “It will take a special trip to one of our centers to get the test because you must have a 12-hour fast before. The idea is an ounce of prevention is worth of a pound of cure. It is a good idea to know if you need to do something about your cholesterol. We are really excited to be able to offer this to donors this year.”

The non-profit Mississippi Blood Services operates seven drawing stations across Mississippi with distribution hubs in Jackson, Oxford and Greenville. It services 50 hospitals across the state. For more information on the donor protection policy, visit the Web site www.msblood.com/DonorProtection.html/.

There are also other organizations that provide blood collection and distribution in the state such as United Blood Services.

Contact MBJ contributing writer Becky Gillette at bgillette@bellsouth.net.

About Becky Gillette

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