The Christmas holiday season is a busy, joyful time for most of us, as we decorate, cook, shop, party and, above all, spend time with friends and family. But for the American Red Cross, which manages the region's blood supply, it is an anxious, nail biting season. The need for blood continues as always, but donations take a dive as regular donors, who are busy with travel and holiday plans, may forget or have less time to make appointments.
"We get our blood supply from the American Red Cross, and we always try to keep six to eight units in our refrigerator," April Oliver, Fulton County Hospital's donor growth coordinator, said. "We need blood on hand for emergencies, and for people, like those undergoing chemotherapy, who may need transfusions. There are times we run short, however, and have to send out a call out for hospital employees to donate to meet a need."
On Tuesday, Nov. 20, the hospital's conference room was converted into donation stations, as the Red Cross held one of the four blood drives it schedules each year at FCH. In the hallway outside the conference room, people were waiting for their turn to donate.
While anyone is welcome to walk-in and donate when the Red Cross has a blood drive, it heavily depends on regular donors in each community that it serves. A blood drive coordinator at the regional office in Jonesboro was busy calling past Fulton County donors to try to get them to drop by during the Thanksgiving week drive.
"We tend to see familiar faces when we host a blood drive," Oliver said. "Many people are regular blood donors that we can count on to help out. Most of them have a story associated with why they make a point to donate - usually a story about how blood transfusions helped save the life of a friend or loved one after an accident or during treatment of an illness."
Oliver added hospital employees are among those who always make time during their day to stop by and donate. "I came here in March as Lab Director, after 10 years at Baxter Regional. I really like seeing the dedication here at the hospital during blood drives, and when there are other community needs to be met."
During the Nov. 20 blood drive, Fulton County Hospital had a goal of collecting 25 units of blood, and came close to the goal, bringing 22 units in. "We had enough donors to meet the goal, but some had to be deferred from giving because they were anemic or their iron levels were low," Oliver said.
While Fulton County Hospital will not host another blood drive until after the new year, there will be a number of other blood drive locations in Fulton, Izard and Sharp and Baxter Counties in December. They include a Dec. 4 blood drive at Mammoth Spring High School, a Dec. 13 collection event at Columbia Flooring in Melbourne and a Dec. 20 blood drive at the Walmart in Ash Flat.
In addition, the Mountain Home Blood Donation Center in Baxter County is generally open Monday through Saturday. The center's address is 1041 Highland Circle.
For information or to schedule a blood donation, people can call 1-800-RED Cross (1-800-733-2767) or visit redcrossblood.org
"We serve refreshments to all who donate blood, and usually have free t-shirts and special events. At our blood drive, one donor won a drawing for a $25 Walmarft gift card," Oliver said.
As she finished up her blood donation, Mackenzie Etheridge said she is always happy to give. "I think it's a great thing (blood drives). I know if I was in need of blood I would be happy to know that someone had donated for me."