Blood drive seeks to replenish supply

Area Red Cross officials hope an upcoming blood drive will help ease the current blood shortage throughout the state.

Blood supplies are low after a wreck in Transylvania County left 15 people hurt or hospitalized last week and depleted much of the type O-negative blood supply in the Asheville area.

The N.C. Highway Patrol said a tractor-trailer jackknifed Dec. 21 and collided head-on with a church van carrying children.

The wreck left 15 people hospitalized or injured and, because most of the victims were children, medics used type O-negative blood — the universal blood type — for treatment.

Now, blood supplies have suffered statewide as neighboring counties have shipped their O-negative supplies to help the Asheville area. The shortage also comes during a holiday season when blood donors are already infrequent and supplies usually low.

Suzan Anderson, executive director of the Catawba Valley Red Cross, said there are usually less donors during the holidays.

“People are traveling and out shopping and they just aren’t giving blood,” Anderson said, adding that corporations, private companies and schools also hold fewer blood drives during the vacation season. “It kind of all adds up.”

Anderson hopes a blood drive set for Friday, Jan. 6 will help restore some of those supplies.

Local masons are organizing the 23rd annual Masonic Blood Drive at five locations in Catawba County and neighboring regions.

Larry Stroud, 2011 Mason master, knows firsthand the need for blood. Stroud needed several pints of blood in 2002 when he battled cancer and needed an operation to remove a 22-pound tumor.

“I now know how important it is for people to donate blood, and we can’t take it for granted,” Stroud said. “You don’t ever want to go into that operating room not knowing whether the blood is going to be there, and it’s up to the generosity of others to make sure it’s there when you need it."

People who donate during the upcoming drive will be entered to win several big prizes, including five pairs of race tickets at Charlotte Motor Speedway and a pair of round-trip Delta Air Lines tickets. Presenting donors will also receive an American Red Cross ceramic soup bowl and spoon, which includes a recipe card from celebrity chef Cat Cora.

The Red Cross Carolinas Blood Services Region provides lifesaving blood to 103 hospitals and must have 1,600 people give blood and platelets each weekday to meet hospital demand, according to Red Cross information.

Accident victims and patients with cancer, sickle cell disease, blood disorders and other illnesses receive lifesaving transfusions every day, Anderson said.

Blood can be safely donated every 56 days. Platelets can be safely given every two weeks, up to 24 times a year. Most healthy people age 17 and older, 16 with parental consent, who weigh at least 110 pounds, are eligible to donate blood and platelets. Donors who are 18 and younger must also meet specific height and weight requirements.

“We’ve got good databases so that when we have a tragedy like this and need O-negative donors, we know who they are,” Anderson said. “It’s a really good idea for people to donate throughout the year because you don’t know when there’s going to be a tragedy. But the reality is that people need blood every day because people need it every day.”

Friday's blood drive sites
•Conover Fire Department, Conover, 2-7 p.m.
•Hickory Masonic Lodge, Hickory, 2-7 p.m.
•Statesville Civic Center, Statesville, 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.
•Charles Mack Citizens Center, Mocksville, 2-7 p.m.
•Lee Masonic at First Baptist Church, Taylorsville, 1:30-7 p.m.