Give blood to help offset 'the perfect storm'

Friday, December 15, 2006

The Red Cross has been hit by a "perfect storm" of sorts, and desperately needs your help.

Yes, we know this is a busy time of year. And, yes, we know there are many worthy causes to donate to all year around, and especially at holiday times. We've used this space many times to urge support for worthy causes like the United Way, McCook Pantry, Salvation Army, and many others over the years.

But this cause is different. For one thing, it won't cost a thing, other than perhaps an hour of your time.

For another, it might help save someone's life.

"Collections in our division have been extremely low, and we are fighting a daily battle to collect enough blood to maintain our hospitals' inventory," said Collete Guynan, donor recruitment representative for the American Red Cross.

And the perfect storm? Guynan didn't say so, but we imagine part of it is the holidays themselves. Time is at a premium when there are Christmas programs to attend, holiday parties and all manner of special seasonal events demanding our presence.

Combine that with illnesses like colds and flu, which keep donors from giving blood, and you can see the problem.

An additional issue is the popularity of tattoos, which, in Nebraska, prevent blood donations for a year from the time they are applied.

There's still no substitute for blood, and there never seems to be a comfortable margin in the supply. Add the holidays and illness, and the shortage becomes dangerous.

Imagine you or a loved one lying in an emergency room while medical staff scrambles to find the blood you need to stay alive. And, imagine that the blood needed is extremely rare.

You can see why the American Red Cross, and McCook coordinator Cathy Carman seem so grateful when someone takes the time to donate.

Type O negative and positive are always needed, Cathy said, along with all of the negative types of blood. "But we still need everything. Donations are down across the board," she said.

While there is a lot of sickness around, and donors can't give blood within 10 days of receiving antibiotics, Cathy is optimistic that many potential donors will feel better in time to give blood next week.

If you've never donated, how about giving it a try for the first time? As long as you're at least 17 and weigh 110 pounds, you may be eligible to donate. And, if it's been eight weeks (56 days) since you've done so, you're eligible again.

The American Red Cross will be in McCook next week, Dec. 20-21, at the community building on the Red Willow County Fairgrounds. Times are 11 to 5 p.m. Wednesday and noon to 6:30 p.m. Thursday. You can walk in any time it is convenient during those times, or call Cathy at (308) 345-4473 for an appointment.

Everyone who offers to give will receive a special holiday gift, and will be eligible to win a DVD player in a drawing as an added incentive.

The gifts and prize are a nice touch, but we think the best reward will be the knowledge that we may have helped save someone's life.

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