Summer Of Need

Published 8:00 pm Thursday, July 5, 2012

Summer is a busy time of the year with vacations, yard work and other activities on people’s minds.

     But with all those distractions, something that people often overlook is donating blood. Because of that, summer is one of Mississippi Blood Service’s times of year when they are in the most need for blood, according to Susan Ates, spokesperson for MBS.

     “Our shelves are pretty bare right now,” she said. “We really do need to have people come out and donate blood.”

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     Ates said this year is like most others when it comes to their blood shortage.

     “Every summer we go through a shortage,” she said. “It’s a tradition we could really do without. We need blood.”

     Most of MBS’ blood comes from school drives, but when schools are out they have to look elsewhere. That’s part of the reason for the shortage.

     “It’s just not something most people think about to give blood,” said Ates. “Donating is not on the top of people’s minds this time of year.”

     Ates cited vacations and people staying busy with summertime activities as reasons for the shortage.

     She said people’s favorite reason to not donate is because they think someone else will do it. That erroneous thinking results in problems for MBS.

     “It is a critical shortage,” she said. “It’s scary looking at how low our supplies are now.”

     Ates said if there were a disaster they would have to go outside to get blood, but they like to be self-sufficient.

     “We ship out on average 230 units per day,” she said. “The average person who needs a transfusion needs 2.5 units of blood, but once you use one half of a unit, you have to use the other half as well.”

     Blood is divided into components of blood cells, plasma and platelets. Ates said a unit of blood could save up to three lives.

     Platelets come from platelet donors, and getting platelets takes a little longer. Ates said those who donate platelets get to watch a movie.

     Whole blood can be donated every 56 days and has a shelf life of 42 days, meaning it cannot sit around in storage for long. Platelets can be donated every seven days – up to 24 times a year – and has a shelf life of only five days.

     “We like our platelet donors to come in every two weeks if possible because of the limit per year,” said Ates.

     Plasma donations are taken with other donations and have a shelf life of about a year. Plasma that is sold does not go to hospitals.

     “Plasma that you sell if not used in transfusions,” she said. “It’s used in pharmaceuticals.”

     Ates pointed out one startling statistic.

     “Out of our population, only 40 percent are considered healthy enough to donate,” she said. “Out of that, only 10 percent donate on a regular basis. If we could take that 10 percent and increase it by 50 percent we’d be in much better shape that we are now, but it would still just be 15 percent of those healthy enough.”

     Ates said when someone needs blood, they need it immediately. However, when blood is donated, it takes two days to process.

     “So if someone has an accident today, and you go donate today, your blood will not be able to help that person on the same day,” she said. “That’s why it’s good to donate frequently.”

     The process of donating blood takes less than an hour from the time someone walks in the door. The actual donation takes 10-15 minutes, according to Ates.

     “Over the summer and the Christmas holidays are our neediest times of year,” Ates said. “People are just busy with things and they don’t think about it.”

     Brookhavenites have the opportunity to donate when the blood coach visits King’s Daughters Medical Center every second and fourth Monday of the month from 1-6 p.m.

     Two other drives are coming up at Walmart in Brookhaven. The first will be on July 5 and the second on July 27. Everyone who donates blood between May 24 and Sept. 3 will be registered for a chance to win a 2012 Dodge Ram 1500 Truck with a 5.7 liter Hemi engine.