The Christmas and summer holidays, when most people are preoccupied with kids, travel and other holiday activities, often leave meager blood supplies at Shepeard Community Blood Center.
Nurse Teretha Brown (right) assists Robert Lazar of Grovetown as he donates blood for the Shepeard Community Blood Center drive at Harlem's City Hall.
"The kids are out of school, so everybody plans to take a summer vacation," said Kelly Sanders, the center's community relations coordinator. "People take off their normal schedule and forget to come in and give blood.
But just after Christmas and during the summer is when blood is needed most due to accidents during peak travel times and summertime activities such as boating, Sanders said.
To help out during these critical times, the Columbia County Emergency Services Division is conducting its sixth semiannual blood drive from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. at the Columbia County Emergency Services office on Faircloth Drive in Evans.
Donors will be treated to a free barbecue lunch provided by Mot's Pit Cooked Barbecue, a certificate for a free pint of ice cream from Bruster's Old Fashioned Ice Cream and Yogurt and a free T-shirt.
Sanders said the center's supply is not critically low, but the supply of types B and O are low. Anyone with type O-negative is encouraged to donate because that type is universal.
The center provides blood to 15 hospitals in 11 surrounding counties, Sanders said.
Previous drives brought in as much as 156 pints of blood, which came from donors at January's drive, said Pam Tucker, county EMA director.
"Those are phenomenal numbers," Tucker said. "That does help boost their supplies. So, we need these same people to come back. We also want new donors."
This year, donors have the option to donate whole blood, or just red blood cells through the center's newly acquired Alyx Component Collection System. The center began testing the system, which strains red blood cells from blood and returns the plasma and white blood cells, mixed with saline to the donor's body, Sanders said.
Red blood cells are the most needed blood component used to treat certain types of cancer, sickle cell anemia and surgery and trauma patients, Sanders said.
The process takes a little longer than donating whole blood - 25 to 35 minutes for two pints of red blood cells and counts as two pints for regular donors. Red blood cell donors must wait 12 weeks between donations as opposed to the required 8-week waiting time between whole blood donations.
"The technology does use a smaller needle and it does return fluids (platelets and plasma)to the body, so the donors find it a little more comfortable because of the needle and because they will be less likely to get a reaction like nausea or lightheadedness," Sanders said.
The longer, but less frequent visits can be more convenient for donors who want to help, but can't get to the center to donate six times a year, Sanders said.
"This technology, I don't want to say it is for everybody, but it is for people who may only do one or two or three donations a year," Sanders said. "They can touch twice as many lives by doing this technology because they are able to just give their red cells and they are able to go to more hospital patients."
Potential whole blood donors must:
Weigh at least 110 pounds
Be at least 17 years old
Be relatively healthy
Provide a photo ID
Have not donated blood in the last eight weeks
To be eligible to donate red blood cells:
Men must be at least 5-feet, 1-inch tall and weigh at least 130 pounds
Women must be at least 5-feet,5-inches tall and weigh at least 130 pounds
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