(Photo by Tim Jaynes, Staff)
SIKESTON -- In addition to cold weather, the winter season also typically means a critical shortage in the region's blood supply.
"The winter months are especially crucial because there is an increase in accidents around the holiday season, and we always have an influx of bad weather, which can also mean accidents," said Crystal Jones, donor recruitment representative for American Red Cross' Missouri-Illinois Blood Services Region.
But also contributing to the shortage is the bitter cold temperatures which often keep people indoors and prevent them from giving blood, Jones said. "So in the winter time, we struggle," Jones said.
On Friday, the Missouri-Illinois Region's blood supply had less than a half-
day's supply of O negative, less than a half-day supply of B negative and the remaining blood types were between one and three day's supply.
"O and B negative are the two blood types we struggle with -- O negative because it's the universal donor and B negative because it's a rare blood type," Jones said.
Those who have B negative blood type can only receive B negative and O negative blood,' Jones said, adding only 7 percent of the population has a blood type of B negative.
O negative is used in emergency situations because medical personnel know they can give the blood type to anyone, which is why there is a shortage of that type, Jones said.
The Red Cross predicts the low levels of O negative and B negative will continue to fall unless donations increase immediately.
At least three blood drives are planned in the Sikeston area this week alone. "Even though it's cold outside and it takes up an hour of your time, you're giving the gift of life and that's a great reward," Jones said.
Jones noted up to three lives can be saved with one donation because with one donation, red blood cells, plasma and platelets are collected.
"We use blood as medicine. It's not any different than going to doctor and getting medicine. If people are sick and need blood, the only thing that can help is to give them medicine, blood."
Ashley Lloyd, 31, of East Prairie knows firsthand the importance of blood donations. The 31-year-old was a blood recipient about seven years ago not long after giving birth to her twin daughters.
"During the whole time in labor, I had a 104-degree fever," Lloyd recalled. "The epidural worked for a little bit, then quit. The babies were feeling the stress so I ended up having a C (cesarian)-section."
The C-section went routine, but while in recovery, Lloyd's uterus wouldn't stop bleeding.
"Because of the blood loss, I required three units of blood. I remember being short of breath from the loss of blood," Lloyd said.
Relief was almost immediate.
"I remember thinking, 'I can breathe,'" Lloyd said. "I don't know how much longer I could've went (without a transfusion)."
Lloyd said she's thankful for the generosity of strangers and wonders from time to time who her donors were.
"You do wonder because you'd like to thank them," Lloyd said.
Now Lloyd is organizing a blood drive for next month and is involving the students at her daughters' school, R.A. Doyle Elementary in East Prairie.
Students are encouraged to play a major role in recruiting family members to give blood. As an incentive, they will receive prizes and credit for doing so.
"Even though the children can't personally give blood, they can still be a hero by talking to and encouraging their parents to donate," Lloyd said. "They're helping to save someone."
With 140 donors signed up, Lloyd has been told by a Red Cross representative the blood drive will be the largest ever in Mississippi County.
"It's amazing," Lloyd said.
Besides helping children learn about saving others' lives, Lloyd's other goal is to help bring in more first-time, young donors, which is the age group the Red Cross would like to see donate more often, she said.
"Because the majority of children in Doyle have young parents, we thought it would be a good idea to do this drive," Lloyd said.
Jones said the Red Cross has a 30 percent retention rate of first-time donors, who average a donation of about 1.5 times a year.
"If people would just donate twice a year, we wouldn't have the shortages we are currently in," Jones said.
Lloyd said telling her story has opened a dialogue with other residents who've received blood.
"Once one person talks, it opens up doors," Lloyd said.
And for those who aren't familiar with giving or receiving blood, Lloyd said she encourages them to learn more.
"It's one of those things that if it hasn't happened to you, then you don't think about," Lloyd said. "There are so many out there who do need it. Just remember (by donating) you are saving a life. You may not know that person, but you are saving a life."