The truth is blood cannot be manufactured.
According to Kristin Stancil, Communications Manager of the Red Cross in Georgia, “It can only come from the generosity of volunteers.”
And during the summer months, the need for blood donations rises significantly. “We generally see a decline from seasonal activity as well as travel that prevent regular donors from being able to give.”
The decline in blood donations during the summer can also be attributed to school being out, she said. “High schools and colleges make up more than 20 percent of our donations during the academic year.”
Baxter Bouchillon, a local insurance agent and county resident, has been religiously donating his A-positive blood to the Red Cross pretty much since high school.
“I had a teacher who gave extra credit for donating blood,” he said.
He continued to donate until he left for college. He didn’t donate while he finished his degree and then traveled for State Farm Insurance. Fifteen years ago, when he returned to Covington to raise a family, Bouchillon started donating blood again.
He’s been pretty consistent with it, too, donating as often as he’s eligible, about eight weeks or 56 days. Since high school, he said, he’s probably given about 37 units of blood. That’s over four gallons he’s donated.
He’s been such an inspiration to his twin daughters, Liane and Tory, the 14-year-olds are eager to donate. They need to be 16 before the Red Cross will allow them to donate, and then, only with parental consent.
When the Red Cross contacted First Presbyterian Church in Covington about the possibilities of holding a blood drive there, Bouchillon, an Elder in the church, coordinated it.
“The blood drives started last year, and there have been four since,” he said. “The most recent was May 31. The next will be Aug. 3 from 2 to 7 pm.”
For those who have been unable to donate blood, Bouchillon said, they can give plasma. It takes a bit longer than a blood donation because the blood is cycled out of one arm, filtered and the red blood cells are put back in,” he said. “Plasma is extremely versatile, so even if you can’t give whole blood, you can give plasma.”
For those taking medicines or prescriptions, information about what’s allowed is available at the Red Cross web site, www.redcrossblood.org, or by calling 1-800-RED-CROSS (733-2767).
“Don’t assume anything,” he said. “Talk about it to a Red Cross volunteer. The worst they can do is say ‘no’.”
Bouchillon said he donates because “it’s a simple way to help people in need when they need it. It’s just a good feeling to give someone you don’t know blood. It doesn’t take a lot of time.
“In the time it takes to get a haircut, I can give blood,” he said. “Even one donor can help up to three lives.”
1,200 donors needed daily
“We need approximately 1,200 people to donate blood or platelets every single weekday," Stancil said. “The Southern Region services more than 120 hospitals in the region, including Piedmont's five hospitals, making the need for blood constant.
“That’s why you hear from us so often, because we want to make sure we can provide blood to our hospitals so patients have it when they need it," she explains.
The American Red Cross has issued an emergency call for blood and platelets, urging all eligible donors to give now to replenish an extremely low summer blood supply.
Blood donations have fallen short of hospital needs for the past few months, resulting in about 39,000 fewer donations than what’s needed, as well as a significant draw down of the overall Red Cross blood supply. In addition, the Independence Day holiday may have caused many regular donors to postpone donations due to vacation plans. A recent Red Cross poll revealed that more than 75 percent of donors surveyed indicated vacation plans this summer, many of them occurring the weeks before and after July 4.
“Right now, blood products are being distributed to hospitals faster than donations are coming in, which is why we are making this emergency request for donations,” said Mario Sedlock, director of donor recruitment, Southern Blood Services Region. “Donations are urgently needed now to meet the needs of hospital patients in the coming days and weeks. If you’ve thought about giving blood and helping to save lives, now is the time to do it. It’s the blood donations on the shelves that help save lives when an emergency occurs.”
According to Stancil, there’s a need for all blood types, but especially O donors. “If you’re type O negative, we definitely encourage you to make an appointment as soon as you’re able to donate.”
Type O negative is the universal blood type and can be used for any patient during an emergency.