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Give the Gift of Life: Holidays are a critical time for Marsh Regional Blood Center

December 30th, 2011 3:20 pm by Staff Report

Give the Gift of Life: Holidays are a critical time for Marsh Regional Blood Center

Platelet donors (from left) Wayne Godberry, Nathan Catron, Steve Bruce and Rich Rosenberg relax, visit and watch TV during their regular platelet donations.

Christmas morning - wrapping paper is scattered throughout the house, stockings have been dumped in the floor, and you are eyeing that present from Aunt Gertrude thinking 'return.' While you are out next week returning those unwanted or inappropriate presents, take an hour and give the greatest gift of all - life.

Historically, the week before and after Christmas creates a "critical" shortage of blood supplies for the 22 hospitals served by the Marsh Regional Blood Center, according to Director Don Campbell.

"I call it the double-whammy," Campbell said. "During this time period, our donor supply goes down about 10 percent, which is significant. The need for blood actually goes up five to 10 percent so that’s where the double-whammy comes in. Last year, we had the triple component of bad weather."

Marsh Regional Blood Center needs 150 units of whole blood daily to meet the needs of its client hospitals. "During the holiday season, I look at donating blood as giving the gift of life because you never know whose life you will save with your donation," Campbell said.

Donated blood is split into three products - red cells, platelets and plasma. According to Campbell, your single donation can save three lives because the blood product can go into three patients. Donated blood is processed overnight at the Marsh testing facility and released to its client hospitals the next day.

"Your donation has an immediate impact on the ability to save someone’s life within 48 hours after donation," he said.

In addition to whole blood donations, Marsh also collects platelets at its site locations in Kingsport, Bristol and Johnson City. Donating platelets takes up to two hours because the process involves taking only the platelets from the blood and returning red blood cells to you.

Platelets create the clotting process in your blood and are primarily used in the treatment of cancer patients or during cardiovascular surgeries. Platelets are the quickest growing cell in blood and can be donated every two weeks. Whole blood has a shelf life of 42 days, whereas platelets only last five days. The donation of platelets is critical for cancer and cardio-surgical patients.

The criteria for "attempting" to donate blood are simple. You must be at least 17 years old, weigh at least 120 pounds and feel well on the day of your donation. You will be asked to answer 52 questions that deal with your health, travel and social behavior history. Then you will be given a mini-physical to ensure that it is okay for you to donate blood. There are certain medications or FDA travel advisories that can exempt you from giving blood.

According to Campbell, only about 38 percent of the population can donate blood. Of that 38 percent, only between six to 10 percent donate on a regular basis.

No appointments are needed to donate blood at the Marsh Regional Blood Center sites in Kingsport, Johnson City or Bristol. Offices will be closed on Dec. 26, but will re-open the following day. Donor Collection Centers are located at: 102 E. Ravine St., Suite 200, Kingsport; 1 Professional Park, Suite 14, Johnson City; and 1996 W. State St., Bristol. For more information, visit the website at:

This week, take a break from the maddening after-Christmas crowd, slip into the Marsh Regional Blood Center for a relaxing hour in a recliner, followed by a snack and drink, and Give the Gift of Life. Remember, your donation can touch three people within 48 hours after donation.

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