Winter puts freeze on blood donations, residents step up

Thursday marked Cecilia Sparks’ 109th time rolling up her sleeve and donating blood.

The tradition started back when the Seymour resident was in college, and her father and brother made a habit of giving, too.

The winter weather this week didn’t stop Sparks from taking a few minutes out of her day to visit First Baptist Church in Seymour for an American Red Cross blood drive.

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“My dad gave until he could no longer give in his 50s. He was a huge donor. My brother did until he could no longer give donations,” Sparks said. “Now, I’m past my brother and my dad’s age giving blood, and until (the Red Cross) tells me no, I’m not going to stop giving blood.”

Since Monday, 39 Red Cross blood drives in Indiana and Kentucky were canceled because of the weather. That results in a shortfall of close to 1,300 blood and platelet donations, according to a Red Cross news release.

“It is the blood products already on the shelves that help save lives when severe weather hits,” said Tim Ryerson, chief executive officer of the River Valley Blood Services Region. “The need for blood does not get a snow day. Thanks to generous Red Cross blood and platelet donors, blood products were available for patients who still need transfusions despite the weather.”

Tina Nalley, Red Cross team supervisor, said in the first two hours of Thursday’s drive, 22 people had donated blood. She thought that was a good number considering the amount of snow on the ground and schools being closed.

In deciding to cancel a drive, Nalley said they work with the donation site to determine if it’s safe enough for the Red Cross officials and donors to get there safely.

“We just need people to come in and donate when-ever we can have the drives,” she said. “Come out and help us save lives. This is very important. There’s people that are counting on us at the hospital.”

Donations collected at each site go to a local hospital. In Jackson County, that would be Schneck Medical Center.

Yulee Schafer, Red Cross donor recruitment representative, said it only takes about 40 minutes to give blood, and each unit can save up to three lives. Every two seconds, somebody in the United States needs blood, Schafer said.

After a person gives blood, they have to wait 56 days until their next donation.

“One of the best feelings in the world is after you donate, when you get in bed that night, lay your head on the pillow and know that sometime in the next 42 days, three people may send you a silent thank you for helping save their lives,” she said.

Sparks said when her brother was hit by a train in 1983, there was a long line of people at Schneck waiting to give blood. Her brother died that night, but it meant a lot to her that so many people showed up to donate.

Even before that incident, Sparks was in a routine of donating when she could.

“It makes me cry when they turn me away,” she said with a smile.

Sue Linscott also is a longtime donor. She said roads were slick near her home south of Seymour, but she was determined to get to First Baptist Church on Thursday to donate blood.

“The road is slick as glass, but I just creep, and I thought if everybody else can make it up and down through there, maybe I can, too,” she said, laughing.

Linscott said she donates blood about three times a year.

One time in the past, she received a letter stating that some of her blood had helped two adults and a child in Louisville. She said it makes her feel good to help somebody.

“I was in a bad wreck seven years ago, and I had to have blood,” she said. “Before that even, I gave blood. I just feel like that’s a great thing that you can do to help save somebody’s life.”

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Blood donors of all types — especially those with types O negative, B negative and A negative blood — and platelet donors are needed.

A blood donor card or driver’s license or two other forms of identification are required at check-in.

Individuals who are at least 17 years of age (16 with parental consent in some states), weigh at least 110 pounds and are in generally good health may be eligible to donate blood. High school students and other donors 18 years of age and younger also have to meet certain height and weight requirements.

Upcoming American Red Cross blood drives in Seymour include 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. March 1 at Walmart, 1600 E. Tipton St.; and 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. April 1 at Seymour High School, 1350 W. Second St..

To schedule an appointment to donate, download the Blood Donor App, visit redcrossblood.org or call 800-RED CROSS (733-2767).

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