The Chattanooga, Tenn.-based nonprofit blood bank is the sole provider of blood products for Cartersville Medical Center and other area hospitals.
A number of factors have played upon each other culminating in a desperate shortage of blood products. The heat has kept many schools and factories from holding regularly scheduled drives and the economy has effected donors in various ways. Blood Assurance and those at the Cartersville Donation Center hope walk-in donors can help fill the need.
The situation is so dire, Blood Assurance donor centers will not observe the Labor Day holiday, instead keeping their doors open for possible donors
"We are actually going to be open on Labor Day which is not typical for us at all," said Lacey Wilson, public relations representative. "But because we're so low, we didn't feel that it was safe for our hospitals if we were closed. We know that there are a lot people that can't get here Monday through Friday because of their work schedules, so we're hoping that if we stay open they'll be able to come and see us."
Donors giving whole blood can donate every 56 days typically finishing in as little as 10 minutes following a brief check-in and registration. Those wishing to give blood components may donate every two weeks and although the process takes longer the gift goes further.
Tuesday, regular donor Mark Garland made his biweekly platelet donation through a process known as apheresis, which runs blood through a centrifuge separating blood components. His latest donation will help to treat and possibly save the lives of three to four people. Platelets are used to treat cancer patients, infants, victims of traumatic injuries and patients undergoing open heart surgery or transplants.
"I had never given platelets. I had always given blood on the bus," Garland said. "I told them they could have whatever they wanted. I didn't know what [platelets] were, then I found out they helped cancer victims and I was all about helping however I could."
Garland now gives each chance he can at the Cartersville donation center and added that blood donation is an affordable way to help others while still making a meaningful impact in their lives.
"I had prayed about a way to help people besides financially," Garland said. "This is one thing I can do to help people and since I started giving platelets, one of my daughter's friends from school was diagnosed with cancer. So, just the thought that it may be helping him and others like him is encouraging."
Although the economy is a motivating factor for Garland to give, Blood Assurance has seen the current economic situation affect donations negatively. Wilson has heard many donors say that driving to give blood is one trip that has been cut from their budgets to save on gas. Locally there are not options for paid blood donation, in the Chattanooga area, however, Blood Assurance competes with pharmaceutical and cosmetic companies. The Food and Drug Administration will not allow hospital-supplying blood banks to provide compensation for blood donation.
"We're the only blood provider that supplies blood to Cartersville Medical Center. So, if we don't have it and if we're low then your hospital sees the direct impact of that," Wilson said. "As a region, we need about 400 units daily and that includes Cartersville Medical Center, Redmond Regional, Floyd in Rome and Gordon Hospital."
A critical appeal was released for O positive, O negative, A positive, A negative and B negative donors but all types are encouraged to give.
The Cartersville donation center is open Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. at 921 B Joe Frank Harris Parkway. For more information or to schedule a donation call 770-334-3261.