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Area blood drives help save lives

In a season known for giving, donations at area blood drives seem to get forgotten during the hectic days before and after Christmas.

Susan Ates of Mississippi Blood Services said — while the general need for blood tends to increase at Christmastime — donations actually plummet during the month of December.

“It is more in demand around the holidays,” Ates said. “But people are less likely to give, because they’re so busy.”

Aside from being used in the operating room, blood donations also help save the lives of cancer patients, premature babies and people with chronic blood disorders.

“Ninety-five percent of the U.S. population will probably need blood at some point in their lives, but less than 40 percent of the population can actually donate,” Ates said.

Blood is considered a biological pharmaceutical product, and, as such, it goes through rigorous analysis before being administered to patients.

“A lot people think they can just run down and donate whenever their loved one gets sick,” Ates said. “But there is actually a two-day processing period before the blood can be used.”

Mississippi Blood Services encourages all healthy people over the age of 15 to donate. Anyone under 18 is required to have the written consent of a legal guardian before giving, and all donors must weight over 110 pounds.

Ates said taking certain medications might preclude you from making a contribution, and your donation might also be deferred if you’ve recently traveled to certain areas outside of the United States.

“We want the blood we transfuse into patients to be as clean as possible,” she said.

All blood given to Mississippi Blood Services stays within the state, but the organization cannot guarantee that a donation made in Brookhaven will end up at the King’s Daughters Medical Center.

“We distribute throughout the state,” Ates said.

The same is true for the blood bank at the Mississippi chapter of the American Red Cross, but, according to Red Cross board member John McFarland, blood donated through their organization is sometimes dispatched to other parts of the country in response to natural disasters.

“It will go where it is needed,” he said. “For example, when the hurricanes hit Florida this year, the damage was so bad that they couldn’t hold their own blood drives. So, we sent them donations.”

Mississippi Blood Services plans to hold a series of blood drives in Lincoln and Copiah counties during the month of January, and Ates hopes locals will turn out to make contributions.

Donations will be collected at the following times and locations:

• Tuesday: Little Caesars in Brookhaven from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

• Tuesday and Thursday: Brookhaven drawing station at King’s Daughters Medical Center from 1 to 6 p.m.

• Jan. 10:  Mississippi Highway Patrol Troop M office in Brookhaven from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

• Jan. 12: United Artists Theatre in Brookhaven from noon to 6 p.m.

• Jan. 14: Walmart in Hazlehurst from noon to 6 p.m.

• Jan. 14: City Drugs in Crystal Springs from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

• Jan. 21: Brookhaven First United Methodist Church from noon to 6 p.m.

All donors who make a contribution at Little Caesars Jan. 2 will be registered for a chance to win a $1,000 Visa gift card. Ates also said to check the Mississippi Blood Services website for scheduling changes and updates.

McFarland stressed that, although blood is always in high demand, donations of less common blood types are especially needed. Therefore, it is important to know which type of blood your body produces and to donate whenever possible.

“Blood is being used, everyday,” he said. “You can’t synthesize or replace it. It’s always in high demand.”