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Blood supply running strong through holidays

Phlebotomist Michael Hatcher, left, prepares Karen Mulford to donate blood in November 2012 for the American Red Cross "Give Something That Means Something" blood drive. Red Cross officials said on Dec. 26, 2012, that storms and other events in other states kept area blood donors aware of the need, resulting in good collections during the Christmas holiday period, which is usually a slow donation time.

Phlebotomist Michael Hatcher, left, prepares Karen Mulford to donate blood in November 2012 for the American Red Cross "Give Something That Means Something" blood drive. Red Cross officials said on Dec. 26, 2012, that storms and other events in other states kept area blood donors aware of the need, resulting in good collections during the Christmas holiday period, which is usually a slow donation time.

ALBANY, Ga. -- Despite that fact that the holiday season tends to have a draining effect on the blood supply, the aftermath of recent storms have resulted in improved donations this year, officials with the American Red Cross say.

Recent storms that have hit other parts of the country, including Superstorm Sandy -- which devastated parts of the northeastern United States in October -- have resulted in an outpouring of support, offsetting the shortages that would normally be expected this time of year.

"We are actually doing pretty good," said Kristen Stancil, spokeswoman for the American Red Cross Southern Blood Services Region.

Stancil said that, even with a healthy supply of blood products on hospital shelves, officials with the Red Cross are still encouraging donations of Type O blood -- which is the type most often requested by hospitals in case of emergencies -- and platelets, which are often used for cancer treatments, organ transplants and surgeries.

Officials would generally expect donation flow to slow during the holidays because people are often too busy to make an appointment to give this time of year because of vacations or family obligations, Stancil said.

On average, 20 percent of the blood supply comes from high school and college drives, which are not conducted when school out of session.

"We are always looking for blood donors," Stancil said. "The need is constant."

Officials at Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital were unavailable Wednesday to comment on the blood supply at the hospital.

Appointments continue to be available at the Red Cross blood donor center on Dawson Road. Opportunities to give are also open at several mobile drives, including one taking place 10 a.m.-6 p.m. today at Phoebe's hospital cafeteria.

The goal is to collect 100 units of blood, Phoebe officials say.

There are at least two blood drives taking place Friday, including one at the Albany Mall from 2 p.m.-7 p.m., and one at the Winn-Dixie on Old Dawson Road from 3 p.m.-7 p.m.

Early in the new year, a blood drive is set to take place at Elements Coffee Shop on Ledo Road from noon-4 p.m. on Jan. 5.

More than 44,000 blood donations are needed daily nationwide, officials with the Red Cross say. Within the Southern Blood Services Region, approximately 1,200 people are needed to donate blood every week day in order to meet the needs of 120 hospitals in Georgia and parts of Florida and South Carolina, officials say.

Most healthy individuals at least 17 years of age and who weigh 110 pounds or more are eligible to donate. Potential donors are asked to come into their appointments well hydrated, to wear comfortable clothing and to bring a list of medications they are taking, as well as a form of identification.

For more information on the donation process or to make an appointment to give, go to www.redcrossblood.org or call 1-800-RED CROSS.