Why your blood donation makes a difference

Published: May. 13, 2022 at 2:57 PM EDT
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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - We’ve been following a local blood shortage since January.

Blood donations haven’t climbed back to reach pre-pandemic levels, and as we enter summer and the shortage gets worse, local blood banks need your help.

That’s why News 12 partnered with Shepeard Blood Center to host a drive at the station, 1226 Gray Way, near Costco.

It’s for kids like Courtney Elliott, a local 3-year-old recovering from leukemia who needs blood and platelets occasionally. She was diagnosed with leukemia about four months ago.

Courtney: “I’m a little bit sick.”

“She says she’s a little bit sick. We’ve had to change the way we describe things for her. She’s a little bit sick if she’s doing clinic visits. She’s a lot sick if she’s in the hospital,” said her mom.

She’s in remission right now, but her treatments will last for another two years, and throughout that process, she’ll need blood and platelet donations.

“I can tell when she needs blood. When she needs blood, she gets sleepy, she’s real pale. When she needs platelets like she does now, she bruises real bad,” she said.

This Monday, she had her regular lab work done, and her levels were critically low. But even critically low in some cases isn’t low enough in a blood shortage when our local hospitals have to ration the blood for the most serious cases. It’s a decision they hate to make and shouldn’t have to.

“The doctor told me basically he doesn’t like where her platelets are right now, but there’s really nothing he can do about it until her numbers drop more,” her mom said. “They have to be stringent. They don’t have extra anything to give out right now. He was like, ‘if I had the blood, I’d give every kid in here blood. They all need it.’”

So Courtney had to wait until today. She’s scheduled to get platelets, but her levels are the lowest they’ve ever been. She’s incredibly bruised.

It’s a gut punch for a mom. Worried about the risk of infection, and what that will mean for her little girl if it happens again.

“Her counts were low, and they got into little cuts. Overnight it was a big infection spot. She was in the hospital for 15 days then,” her mom said.

And this is just one child fighting cancer; there are dozens of stories like this.

We can do something about that. Unfortunately, during the pandemic, so many regular donors got out of the habit of giving and haven’t gotten back in the habit. But this is important. Make it a routine, and that can start today.

“She’s bruised up. She bumped her head the other day, and she has a bruise. They pulled that tape off her, and she just has marks all where that tape was,” she said.

“Dr. Eichenberger, hospitalist at Children’s Hospital of Georgia said: “Recently, our ICU has sort of been day by day on availability of blood. Some of the miracles we take for granted, we have to balance on the availability of blood.”

When there’s a blood shortage--doctors have to make tough calls and put strict caps in place--which they’re doing right now. Courtney’s great grandparents heard about the shortage and drove all the way from Charlotte to donate to our blood drive today.

Martie Israel, great-grandmother said: ”If everybody could see what these children are going through, they would be out there giving their blood. And that’s what I ask people to do, get out there. And donate blood for these children.”

That can mean delaying important heart surgeries for babies if they’re not sure they’ll have enough blood, or telling a three-year-old’s family like Courtney that she’s going to have to get worse to get better--is something we can all help prevent.

Eichenberger said: “Some of the miracles we take for granted, we have to balance on the availability of blood.”

How to help

You can give blood at one of Shepeard’s donation centers:

  • Augusta: 1533 Wrightsboro Road, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday, 706-737-4551
  • Evans: 4329 Washington Road, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and noon to 5 p.m. Sunday, 706-854-1582
  • Aiken: 353 Fabian Drive, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, 803-643-7996

Shepeard also has several upcoming blood drives. Click on the link in each listing to make an appointment. Those drives include:

Also, the Red Cross has several upcoming blood drives planned at Sacred Heart Cultural Center, 1301 Greene St., Augusta. To make an appointment, visit https://rcblood.org/3LgBC7U. The drives include:

  • May 31: 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
  • June 22: 12:30-5:30 p.m.
  • July 26: 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
  • Aug. 16: 12:30-5:30 p.m.

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