BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - United Blood Services is putting out an urgent call to blood donors. A shortage of life-saving blood types can mean delayed surgeries and transfusions.
People like Todd Messina are the solution. He was taught as a young Marine to always give blood because you never know when you'll need it.
"I make it part of my schedule," he explained. "I mean to me it's the same as, like, doing charity work. You need to be able to give some of your time back to others to help out."
But Messina was feeling a bit lonely on a recent weekday morning at United Blood Services. He was the only one giving a donation.
"There's a lot of empty beds, and this is something we never want to see," spokesperson Mitzi Breaux said. "Some people have never donated blood, because they've never been asked, so I'm here asking. Please take time to donate blood."
The entire process takes about an hour for a standard donation. Breaux said there's always a need for all blood types, but O Negative is especially in demand. It's the universal blood type used in trauma cases in emergency rooms. AB plasma falls in the same category.
"We've also seen an extreme increase in the need of AB plasma. Both AB Positive and AB Negative donors are the universal blood donor for plasma," Breaux said. "Plasma transfusions help control bleeding for premature babies, surgery and organ transplant patients as well as those with rare blood diseases. We've seen the need for AB plasma grow as more hospitals expand their trauma care."
The problem? Only about four percent of the population has AB type. If you don't know which type is running through your veins, you'll find out with your first donation.
"It doesn't hurt to give blood," Messina said. "It actually helps you to stay healthy, because it recirculates and gives you fresh blood, creates new blood cells, and therefore you're actually more healthy by giving blood than if you're not."
It's a claim backed up by studies that show regular donations can improve heart health and decrease cancer risk. Messina said that's just lagniappe compared to the satisfaction of making a life-saving donation.
Healthy people can donate blood three times a year. Donors can make an appointment at www.bloodhero.com.
The Baton Rouge Donor Center is located at 8234 One Calais, the service road at I-10 and Essen. The center takes donors seven days a week:
Monday – 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Tuesday – 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Wednesday – 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Thursday – 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Friday – 7 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Saturday – 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Sunday – 7 a.m. to 1 p.m.