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Susan Collins

Give Life this Summer
By Senator Susan Collins
Jul 28, 2006 - 6:25:00 PM

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Senator Susan Collins represents the State of Maine in the U.S. Senate.
This is always the time of year when our calendars are filled with family reunions, weekend trips to the beach, and week-long vacations. Unfortunately, as a result of our busy schedules, this is also the time when the American Red Cross has to issue an annual reminder that as summer heats up, blood donations always cool off.

According to the Red Cross, it is not uncommon for blood donations to drop by as much as 20 percent in the months of July and August, compared to the winter months. There are several reasons for this. High school and college students, who typically donate regularly during blood drives at their schools, are busy working summer jobs. In addition, vacations mean many regular donors are out of town. Vacations also make it difficult for some companies to host blood drives in the workplace. It is important to remember, however, that the need for blood never takes a vacation.

I recently received an urgent alert from The American Red Cross Blood Services for the New England region. It says the need for volunteer blood donors in Maine is critical right now. As a result of this shortage, the Red Cross says that standing orders to hospitals for some blood types, including the most common, O positive, are being cut in half. That is troubling for several reasons. First, because type O is the universal donor, anyone can receive it in an emergency. Second, because type O is so common, it is often the first to decline to dangerously low levels since more patients who depend on transfusions have this blood type.

The current blood shortage is not limited to type O. The need for all blood types is great. Here in Maine, the Red Cross in Portland says it tries to collect 300 units of blood a day. It is concerned that it is currently nearly 450 units short of its needed supply. You might suspect that the demand for blood would be greatest during a catastrophe. But the Red Cross says that is not necessarily the case. In fact, each and every day, cancer patients, premature babies, people needing surgery, accident victims, persons with chronic blood conditions and others with life-threatening conditions all depend on people who are willing to roll up their sleeves and give the gift of life.

Most healthy adults can give blood through the American Red Cross. To be eligible, you must be at least 17 years old, weight at least 110 pounds, be in good health on the day of your donation, have no history of exposure to hepatitis or AIDS, and have not donated blood in at least eight weeks. In addition to the donor centers in Bangor, Portland, and Lewiston, the Red Cross hosts blood drives all around Maine. The best way to find out where you can donate in your area is to go to the American Red Cross website at www.newenglandblood.org or call 1-800-GIVE-LIFE.

Summer in Maine always goes by too quickly. It is easy to get caught up in our vacation plans and forget to donate blood. I urge all of you who are eligible to donate, to look for an opportunity in your community to do so. If you have donated, consider doing it again. You could even bring along a friend who has never donated before. You truly can make a difference.


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