Red Cross hoping to relieve blood shortage

By Billy Corrhier

With the recent holiday season using up more blood than usual, the regional Red Cross is hoping residents will help them replenish its supply.

"We don't have a lot of blood right now," said Candice Gulden, spokeswoman for the metro-Atlanta chapter of the Red Cross.

Gulden said area hospitals are in dire need of Type O blood, the universal type that emergency rooms use in traumas.

"When we're low on (Type) O, that's really a problem at hospitals," she said, adding that holidays increase the need for blood because of more accidents.

"The holidays are a tough time for us. People don't think to give blood when they're dealing with Christmas or New Year's," she said. "People need to realize that accidents and injuries don't take vacations."

Gulden also said the Red Cross doesn't receive as much blood over the holidays because high school and college students, who account for 15 percent of the organization's donations, are not in school.

Once the Red Cross receives blood, it can only keep it for 42 days, so there is always a need for donors, Gulden said. But only 3 percent of eligible donors give blood in Georgia.

Gulden said she thinks a lot of people are wary of being a donor because they don't think giving blood is safe.

But Gulden said all the equipment used at blood drives is sterile, and a donor can not catch any disease from giving.

"People don't understand the need," she said. "I think a lot of them assume other people will do it."

Many donors also might be worried that giving blood will hurt, but recent donor Nancy Wells of College Park said the process is not painful at all.

"The part where I get nervous is when the needle first goes in," she said. "After that, it's nothing."

Wells said that last time she gave blood, the organization that held the drive called her to tell her she had high cholesterol. And at 22 years old, she never thought to ask her doctor about her cholesterol before.

"I would never have known," she said.

Although the Red Cross does not test for cholesterol, it will test donors' blood for HIV, Hepatitis B and C, and Syphilis.

And aside from the practical reasons, Wells said giving blood is a moral responsibility.

"It's the right thing to do," she said. "I try to give whenever it fits into my schedule."

Gulden said the Red Cross realizes that, especially with the traffic congestion of the metro-Atlanta area, blood drives need to be convenient for donors.

The organization is holding more blood drives and also has many donation centers open on Saturdays, she said. Information on giving blood can be found at www.givelife.org or by calling 1-800-GIVE-LIFE.

The Red Cross is holding its next blood drive in Jonesboro on Jan. 19 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at 130 Spring St.

Another drive will be held on Jan. 27 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Mount Zion High School on Mount Zion Parkway.