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Blood drive set for Thursday

Ronnie Whitman waited 14 hours to receive a blood donation, which had to be shipped in from two states in the Pacific Northwest. (Advocate Staff/Austin Nelson)

What if you were losing blood, desperately needed a transfusion—and the blood simply wasn’t there?

That’s the harrowing experience Ronnie Whitman had this spring when he ended up in L.V. Stabler Memorial Hospital.

With Alabama’s blood inventory low in the aftermath of the devastating tornadoes, it took 14 hours for Whitman to receive the blood he needed, which came all the way from two states in the Pacific Northwest.

“I don’t remember much about it, but my wife certainly does,” Whitman, an employee of Tractor Supply Co. in Greenville, said.

“It’s bad when you have to wait that long and go that far to get the blood you need, that’s a fact. You never know when it might happen to you.”

Whitman’s experience is a reminder of the importance of regular blood donations, more vital than ever in the wake of natural disasters already experienced here and across the U.S.  this year, Megan Jefferson, representative for the Red Cross, said.

“The storms earlier this year basically wiped out the blood supply in this state. After the tornadoes, a three-day blood inventory was gone in three hours,” Jefferson said.

According to Jefferson, it takes up to three days to process blood into three components—blood, plasma and platelets—and make it available to hospitals.

“That means it is important for a donation to be made before an emergency arises. If everyone who is eligible to donate gave four times a year, there would never be a blood shortage,” Jefferson said.

This critical need is the reason why an effort is being made to bring together people and businesses from across the community for “Butler County’s Biggest Blood Drive” on Thursday. The American Red Cross will be holding a blood drive from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. at the Family Life Center of the First Baptist Church of Greenville.

According to Jefferson, blood donations typically drop in the summer months when many people are away on vacation and students are out of school – high school and college students make up just more than 21 percent of donors in this region.

At the same time, with more people on the road, more outdoor work and recreation taking place, the need for blood for those experiencing accidents and injuries historically increases during the summer months.  And any unexpected natural disasters make the situation even worse, says Jefferson.

Angela Green, communications specialist for Pioneer Electric, one of the sponsors for the event, encourages all eligible donors in the county to “step up to the plate and donate.”

“Butler County doesn’t have a really strong track record for donations. We would absolutely love to break a record here,” Green said. “Our goal is 21 pints. That seems low, but it’s realistic when you look at the amount donated in the past. We want to see a lot more than that donated. The blood does stay here in the community. Come, bring a friend or send a friend. Let’s make this work.”

The Red Cross is the primary supplier of blood to both L.V. Stabler Memorial Hospital and Georgiana Hospital.

All potential donors must be 17 or older (or 16 with their parent’s permission), and weigh at least 110 pounds. All presenting volunteer donors will be entered into a regional drawing for one of two pairs of round-trip tickets on Delta Airlines. They will also automatically be entered for a chance to win $3,000 in June and July. For more information, call 1-800-RED-CROSS or visit www.redcrossblood.org.