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Give gift of life this Christmas season
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With the Christmas season approaching, Blood Assurance would like to remind people they can give the gift of life for the holidays by simply rolling up their sleeves and giving blood.
“You are literally giving someone life,” said Blood Assurance manager Tari-Lee Gates, noting each donation will, on average, help three people.
Blood Assurance assists a multi-county area which includes Warren County and is the only blood provider for River Park Hospital. The area includes parts of four states, north to Cookeville and south to Polk, Ala., and incorporates 32 counties.
“There’s a good chance someone you know will be using that blood,” Gates said.
One recipient, Jim Appugliese, an officer with Chattanooga Police Department, had his life saved when he was shot in the line of duty. Several surgeries and numerous transfusions later, he recovered and has returned to work.
Gates pointed out it isn’t just blood donations. Platelets are also very important for donations since they help those who are undergoing cancer treatment.
“Those undergoing certain cancer treatments have to have platelets,” Gates said. “We have some people who donate platelets up to 20 times a year.”
Gates pointed to one young girl in Chattanooga who survived due to platelet donations. The girl, Lindsey Gruwell, attended Girls Preparatory School in Chattanooga and was diagnosed with cancer.
“Her parents wondered if cancer would take her from them,” Gates said. “Lindsey is in remission after many transfusions and platelets, and now leads an active life.”
Gates noted people can donate blood once every 56 days but presently, the vast majority refuse to donate blood.
“About 6 percent of people donate, meaning there’s 94 percent out there who never do,” Gates said, noting that leaves regional blood banks like Blood Assurance short.
“In Warren County, we have an average of 1,200 units of blood used but only 400 collected here,” Gates said. “That means we have to go outside for the blood we need.”
Gates admits she has to beg for donations, noting some people are almost belligerent when approached about giving blood.
“I’ve had cigarettes flipped on me and coffee thrown on me because some people feel threatened when you ask for a donation of blood,” Gates said, noting on the other end of the spectrum is an 82-year-old woman in Tullahoma she recently met.
“She had to use a walker to get up the steps of the trailer we were having the blood drive in, but when she got in she found out she couldn’t donate due to health reasons,” Gates said. “I found her outside crying. She told me at her age the only way she felt she could give back to her community is by giving blood and now she couldn’t even do that. It just made me wonder why so many people are afraid of a little needle while this 82-year-old woman was crying because she was not allowed to donate.”
As for the timing of donations, Gates said there are numerous public drives held in Warren County each month which are normally advertised in advance in the Southern Standard.
“Some say they don’t have time but I say if you have time to watch a TV show you have time to give blood,” Gates said.
In addition to blood and platelets, Gates said people are encouraged to sign up for the bone marrow donor registry which can save the lives of those suffering from leukemia. Gates noted that once placed on the registry most people never hear from the registry unless they are a close match to a person who needs marrow. Should the volunteer match, the process of giving marrow, which generally will save the life of the leukemia patient, is not a painful one as it used to be but instead is extracted from a regular blood draw.
“About 70 percent of the marrow matches are from the registry from volunteers and not from close family members,” Gates said, noting most needed are donors of Asian, African American and Hispanic descent. “Most Caucasians are able to get a match through the registry but in the cases of those with Asian, African American and Hispanic descent there’s a good chance they will die due to not having a match.”
Micaela Gilbert, an African American teenager from the Midstate, receives blood transfusions three times a week for treatment of sickle cell anemia. Without the donations of blood, Gilbert, who is an active teen now, would not be able to function normally due to the impact sickle cell has on the blood stream.
The donation process takes about 45 minutes on most visits and requires a prick to the finger to test iron in the blood and then a needle to extract blood from the arm.
“It’s just a little pinch,” Gates said, noting some folks say they feel the finger prick more than the needle. “I give blood every 60 days like clockwork and frankly, I feel physically better for a couple of days after I do.”
Anyone with questions about blood donation with Blood Assurance should call Gates at 931-247-1789 or e-mail at