United Blood Services Needs You to Give the Gift of Life!

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Katie Swinney, Donor Recruitment Representative for United Blood Services, spoke recently to the Kiwanis Club of Pike County about the community blood program in Pike County and the impact blood donation has on people's lives.

Katie Swinney with Kiwanis Club of Pike County President Shelton Davis

Swinney began by explaining the local community blood program. "United Blood Services is the sole provider of blood for Southwest Mississippi Regional Medical Center; we also provide 100% of the blood for Walthall County, Field Memorial, and Beacham Memorial, and we supply blood to seventy other hospitals throughout the state of Mississippi, western Alabama, and Louisiana.  I myself am responsible for twelve counties in Southwest Mississippi and two parishes in Louisiana.  I've met the most wonderful people in McComb.  It's such a wonderful community, and we're proud to be a partner with Southwest Mississippi Regional Medical Center and the other hospitals in our network."


"In Mississippi, every day it takes 300 blood donors just to meet our patient needs.  That's not to have a supply on the shelf in case of emergency-that's just to meet needs.  And we currently don't meet that.  We currently import blood from our network of blood banks, which covers nineteen states.  Per capita, Mississippi is the most charitable state, but we just can't get anybody to roll up their sleeve and give the gift of life.  I think it's a lack of education on our part, and also just getting the information out there, asking, and really encouraging people and letting people know the need.  Southwest Mississippi Regional Medical Center's annual usage is over 5,000 blood and blood products.  The need here is huge, and we are working closely with organizations such as Kiwanis and other service organizations.  We work through our schools, our churches, anything and everybody possible-we work with them to try to encourage people to give blood.  The number one reason people say they don't donate is that they've never been asked.  Through education programs like this, and through our schools, and encouraging early donation and lifelong donation, we are able to make a dent, and help supply what we need for our hospitals here."


Swinney next told of a blood assurance program that United Blood Services offers to businesses, clubs, and organizations.  "If twelve-and-a-half percent of their active population give blood, or if that number of units is collected, we cover that organization for a period of six months," which means that in the event that a member of the covered group uses blood, United Blood Services reimburses the cost not paid by insurance to the hospital for that individual.  For twenty-five percent participation, the group gets a year of coverage.


As an example of the blood assurance program, Swinney told of a man in Vicksburg for whose son United Blood Services is about to conduct some blood drives.  "His seventeen-year-old son was diagnosed with leukemia, and this gentleman had donated at International Paper.  That covered his son for the blood he will be using.  This man had never donated blood before, and someone said, ‘Hey, will you come donate blood today,' and he said, ‘For some reason, I said sure! You never know when my family could need it.'  And now his family needs it.  United Blood Services is able to cover that huge financial burden on his family because he decided to go ahead and donate blood and help us supply the needs of that day, in that community."


Swinney told of the huge need for more donations: "We use blood to treat cancer patients, during surgery, to treat trauma-there are a multitude of uses.  Every day our researchers are finding more and more uses for blood and blood therapy, transfusion therapy, to improve the quality of life, save lives, and make an impact in the community." 


As a special incentive to come out and donate, United Blood Services has a promotion from September 15 through December 31, in which everyone age eighteen and older who donates with United Blood Services is entered into a drawing to win a 2009 Toyota Corolla LE or a seven-day cruise!


For blood donation guidelines and other information, including a posting of area blood drives and how you can sponsor a blood drive, please visit www.unitedbloodservices.org or www.bloodhero.com.


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