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Save a Life: Volunteer to donate blood

Charleston VAMC staff, Veterans and visitors donate blood at a recent Red Cross Blood drive held in the hospital’s main auditorium. Photo by James Arrowood.
Charleston VAMC staff, Veterans and visitors donate blood at a recent Red Cross Blood drive held in the hospital’s main auditorium. Photo by James Arrowood.

Last month was designated as National Volunteer Blood Donor Month. This simple act of volunteer donation can save a life – and that life could be the life of a Veteran, their family members or someone else touched by military service.

Right now, the American Red Cross has a limited supply of most blood types and there is an emergency need for blood donations. Blood is being distributed to hospitals faster than donations are coming in. Every two seconds, someone in the U.S. needs blood.

Frecia Ammons, Account Manager at the South Carolina Region of the American Red Cross, says the emergency need for blood donations is caused by the annual decrease in donations during the holiday season and cancelled drives nationwide due to the effects of winter weather. Ammons encourages eligible donors to set aside 45 minutes to one hour to donate blood, so that the Red Cross can continue to provide blood to patients in need.

“Before you donate it’s great to be prepared and that means having something good to eat and plenty to drink – you don’t want to have an empty stomach,” said Ammons. “Other than that, just be sure to bring a picture ID, make an appointment and complete the Rapid Pass.”

Rapid Pass is an online questionnaire that can help save about 10 minutes at your donation appointment. Once the Rapid Pass is complete, the donor receives a bar code that they’ll need to take with them to donate. Rapid Pass can also be completed on your mobile device.

“Walk-ins are welcome; however, appointments take priority,” said Ammons. “So, it’s important to make an appointment especially if you’re on limited schedule. We do our best to honor appointments out of respect for our donors’ time.”

Since 1999, the Ralph H. Johnson VAMC has been partnering with the Red Cross to host blood drives at the medical center. By bringing the blood drives on campus, the VA hopes to reduce barriers to donation for employees, Veterans and visitors. These blood drives are held six times a year, and align with the minimum 56 days between donations, so that those who choose to donate at the VA can participate in each blood drive. To date, the VA has helped the Red Cross collect 1,761 units of blood.

“On average, our VA uses more than 100 units of blood per month to care for our Veterans,” said Charleston VAMC Director and CEO Scott Isaacks. “We realize how important it is for our staff and Veterans to donate blood if they’re able and we want to help the Red Cross fulfill their mission to distribute blood to our local medical centers – including our VA.”

The medical center will host its next blood drive on Feb. 20 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the VA’s Main Auditorium on the first floor. February’s goal is to collect 26 units of blood. These blood drives are open to the public. Interested donors can make an appointment by visiting www.redcrossblood.org and entering the code: VACharleston. A full list of upcoming blood drives at Charleston VAMC can be found on their Facebook events page.

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