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With only half day’s supply, summer blood drives critical

With only a half day’s blood supply on the shelves, the participation of Mississippi businesses and industries in blood drives is a critical component of assuring an adequate blood supply in the state.

“Corporate blood drives are one of the best ways we have to get blood donors,” said Katie C. Swinney, donor recruitment representative for United Blood Services, Jackson. “It gives us a ready population of blood donors in one spot. Administration and upper management allow people to donate on the clock.”

Swinney said there are three common reasons people give for not donating blood. One is they have never been asked. Two is that they don’t have time. And three is that it is not convenient. A blood drive at work eliminates all three of those reasons.

Businesses that participate are showing in a very concrete manner that they care about the community.

“Coordinating a blood drive is not difficult,” Swinney said. “It is a wonderful way to serve the community you are in with action because we have a half-day supply of blood on the shelves, and it takes about 300 blood donors every day to take care of patient’s needs in Mississippi. If there were to be an emergency, we would need more blood to take care of those patients. The thing we really focus on is getting out the message that for us to take care of patients tomorrow, we have to collect the blood today. In an emergency, people expect blood to be there. And it is something that costs nothing but time, at the most an hour of your time. And that one hour can save three lives.”

Summer is a particularly difficult time to solicit blood donations. People are busy with conferences and vacations. School is out, so parents are particularly busy.

United Blood Services is doing multiple community blood drives this summer, and also holding out a carrot. This month, donors with United Blood Services are entered into a weekly drawing for a $50 gas card. They are also entered in a monthly drawing for a $500 gas card.

“With gas at $3 per gallon, this is a nice incentive,” Swinney said. “We are offering this to try to entice people to come in and donate.”

Some people think donating blood is a scary process. So another part of the education is to let people know it is not painful or difficult.

“It is a little bit of discomfort,” Swinney said. “But the way I look at it is five minutes of discomfort can save three lives. There are also myths that certain people can’t donate. Even if you have high blood pressure, you can donate. If you are a controlled diabetic, you can donate. There is no upper age limit as long as you are healthy. You do have to be 17 and weigh 110 pounds.”

It is particularly difficult in the summer to find good sponsors for blood drives. Most businesses during the summer months have a lot of employees on vacation or, if they are manufacturers, they are in full production.

“The heat is a factor, too, as usual,” Swinney said. “But we are trying to break those boundaries and scale those walls by contacting groups about setting up blood drives and giving people the opportunity to donate.”

United Blood Services has a particularly large drive coming up at LeTourneau Inc. in Vicksburg. Approximately 350 donors are expected.

The most recent blood drive at Nissan in Canton garnered nearly 1,000 pints of blood, said Kelly Scrivner, manager of communications and public relations, Mississippi Blood Services. That set a new record. And the blood didn’t sit around very long.

“We get a thousand units and like that, it is gone,” Scrivner said. “It doesn’t take any time for us to ship that out and for patients to need transfusions. It is just an every day ongoing need.”

Over the past month, Mississippi Blood Services has started seeing a decline in the number of blood donations collected statewide. Scrivner said if this trend continues, it could be a difficult summer for the community blood center and the hospitals.

“In order to combat the summer slump, Mississippi Blood Services and local businesses will be teaming up for a weeklong donor appreciation blood drive, Donor Days, beginning Monday, July 2 through Friday, July 6,” she said. “Businesses in the metro Jackson area will sponsor a blood drive day. A special ‘thank you’ banner will be displayed at the sponsoring business, and their employees and customers will be encouraged to donate blood for that business. The business that recruits the most blood donors will have lunch provided for them the following week.”

Breakfast and lunch will be provided for donors at Mississippi Blood Services throughout the week. Other prizes will be awarded daily.

“We want to make donating blood as convenient and enjoyable as possible,” said Scrivner said. “This is a great way for business leaders to thank lifesavers in our community and encourage others to follow their example.”

While people, especially around July 4, are focusing on barbequing and outdoor recreation, the need for blood doesn’t take a vacation.

“It’s a struggle to get people to donate consistently, especially during the summer,” she said. “People will probably be traveling around the Fourth of July, and blood donation is not at the top of the list of things to do. We understand that. People are having fun with friends and family. But the need doesn’t take a holiday. There are still people in the hospital who need blood transfusions. We have to find ways to encourage those who will be in town working to give the gift of life.”

Scrivner said one of the most cooperative businesses has been Wal-Mart. Managers of Wal-Mart stores allow Mississippi Blood Services to hold blood drives in mobile blood collection coaches in the parking lot. Belks at Flowood Dogwood Festival also allows to them hold a mobile blood drive at the beginning of the school year. Other particularly supportive businesses include the Corps of Engineers ERDC in Vicksburg, the Mississippi Department of Education, M-Tek, Ergon, Trustmark, BankPlus, L3 Vertex and BlueCross BlueShield of Mississippi.

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

About Becky Gillette

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