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Holiday season is difficult time for Marsh Regional Blood Center

Katherine Scoggins • Dec 31, 2012 at 3:34 AM

One of my college professors made it a point to donate blood as often as he could, encouraging his students to do the same. Several years earlier, his wife had been involved in a terrible car accident. Over a two-year period, she required numerous operations and more than a year of recovery in the hospital and rehab facility.

"Had the blood not been available, she would have died almost immediately and certainly would never have survived all the operations. I’ll never know who those donors were, but their gifts saved her life - more than once. That’s why I give blood. There’s no excuse for not doing something so simple that can save someone’s life."

Heroes, good samaritans, there’s no real way of identifying them, but they do have something in common: they recognize the need to give without recognition, a way of "paying it forward." Often they have seen firsthand how vital that blood is.

Don Campbell, the director of the Marsh Regional Blood Center, tells about an accident victim that had suffered substantial trauma and was not expected to live. Family members were called in from Texas, Florida and Maryland. Wellmont happened to be holding an in-house blood drive during that time. A few of the family members went and gave blood. By the end of the drive, 13 out of the 15 family members had donated and were sporting their red Marsh Blood Donor T-shirts. Because a stranger donated blood, their family member lived.

Every two seconds someone in the U.S. needs a blood transfusion. Only 38 percent of the population is able to donate blood and, of those, 5 to 10 percent give on a regular basis. They could surely use more help.

To donate blood, an individual must weigh at least 110 pounds and be at least 17 years of age and in generally good health. There are some situations that may preclude one from giving blood, so the best way to see if you qualify is to call the Marsh Regional Blood Center and talk to them. Individuals who qualify can donate blood up to six times a year; if you donate platelets (plasma), you can donate up to 24 times a year.

What blood type is most needed?

"The one that isn’t on the shelf," explains Marsh’s Julia Davis.

Marsh Regional Blood Center is a joint effort between Wellmont and Mountain States Health Alliance. Yes, you read correctly: these two healthcare systems actually work together to secure blood and blood products for area residents, a sort of "olive branch" between the two health systems.

The Holiday Season, which includes the week of Thanksgiving through the second week of January, is a difficult time for Marsh. Blood supplies are hit with a triple "whammy:" travel, business, hectic schedules and often inclement weather take their toll on not only blood donations but also on inventories of blood.

The shelf-life of blood is 42 days, which might sound like a long time, until you think about the car accidents you hear about this time of year, each having the potential of wiping out an entire supply of a blood type.

Marsh Regional Blood Center has been the largest local supplier of blood and blood products in Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia for more than 60 years. Since establishing the region’s first independent blood bank in Kingsport in 1947, the mission of Marsh Regional has been to collect and maintain blood supplies to meet local needs.

Since those early days, the Marsh Regional Blood Center has expanded its mission through the help of four "bloodmobiles," large buses that travel throughout the region collecting blood and blood products. Perhaps you have seen one of them parked in front of a church, business or school. This year alone, the bloodmobiles have held 800 mobile collections, covering an area from Hancock County, north to Buchanan County, and west to Unicoi, serving every hospital and medical center in between, all except one - The V.A. Hospital in Johnson City.

"But we are used as their backup provider, especially when blood supplies are low," explains Campbell.

For more information on donating blood or volunteering at Marsh, call 423-723-2014. Schedules of area blood drives may be found on the website at www.marshblood.com and you can also "Like" Marsh Regional Blood Center on Facebook.

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