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Students give blood on ‘spooky’ Friday 13th

It might have been a day of superstition and mystery, but that didn’t stop the students of Mississippi School of the Arts from turning it into a day for helping others.

Students laughed off the spooky atmosphere of Friday the 13th. Some put up signs. Some wore vampire teeth for the occasion. Most importantly, they gave blood.

For the entire history of MSA, parents, students and faculty have donated blood to Mississippi Blood Services twice a year. But a critical blood shortage and a local need drove the school to donate early.

“Only 4 percent of people donate blood,” Mississippi Blood Services representative Sherry Book said. “And someone needs blood every two seconds.”

Book is one of six representatives who travels the state of Mississippi, responding to cases of urgent need and drumming up support for the blood drives that save lives.

Book said Madeline King, a Brookhaven High School student diagnosed with thyroid cancer earlier this year, recently underwent surgery. King’s urgent need for a blood transfusion — along with the need of other local residents — drove the school to move their blood drive early.

Friday was also parents’ visitation day at MSA, driving the number of potential blood donors higher. Even without the parental addition, MSA Executive Director Suzanne Hirsch said MSA gets a consistently good turnout for blood drives, and she has been blown away by the generosity of students and faculty.

“We always get between 25 and 40 pints of blood each year,” she said. “Our staff and our students always do a good job.”

MSA has been recognized in the past for the students’ and staff’s generosity with MS Blood Services’ All Star Award, but they aren’t the only school to have two blood drives a year. Book said that’s common to most schools, something that may help bring out more longtime donors in the future.

“It’s very rewarding for me to go to university and have a student come to me and say, ‘I donated blood as a junior.’ They’re so excited to share with me that they’re still donating blood,” Book said.

Book pointed to the current severe blood shortage to illustrate the importance of finding new long-term donors. Blood donations have dropped across the country, and Mississippi is in critical need of more. Most people can donate blood every 56 days, according to Book, and Mississippi needs about 250 donations a day to meet demand.

“Mississippi has been at a crisis level,” Book said. “That has been going on for several weeks now. I encourage everybody to donate blood. Give the gift of life.”

Book said anyone who wanted to keep updated on when and where blood drives were coming should follow Mississippi Blood Services on Facebook. They also have a website with a calendar at msblood.com.