MURRAY – After having to skip last year because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Western Kentucky Chapter of the American Red Cross is once again teaming with the Tennessee Region on the annual spring blood drive, starting today near Murray State University’s campus.

Sherri McKinney, regional communications director for the Tennessee Region of the American Red Cross, said the organization would be hosting blood donation opportunities from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday, April 6 and 7, at the Racer Campus Ministry building, 1403 Olive St., next to Murray State’s campus. Other blood drives will be from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday, April 9,  at Lowe’s; from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday, April 12, at the CFSB north branch; and from 12:30-5:30 p.m. Tuesday, April 13, at First Presbyterian Church.

At each location, temperature checks will be conducted, and social distancing and face coverings will be practiced. All blood types are needed, but type O is especially needed. You can schedule a donation by visiting RedCrossBlood.org, or calling 1-800-733-2767. The Red Cross is also testing blood, platelets and plasma for COVID-19 antibodies. Donors can expect to receive the results of their antibody test within two weeks through the Red Cross Donor App or the donor portal at RedCrossBlood.org.

“We do this drive annually with the Western Kentucky Chapter,” McKinney said. “We did not do it last year because of COVID, but this is a long-running relationship we have with the university. There is great need for any type O blood, positive or negative, so we are encouraging folks to come out and donate.”

McKinney said that although type O is especially needed, any type of blood product is welcome, and the donations have served an additional purpose since the beginning of the pandemic. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), a blood product is any therapeutic substance derived from human blood, including whole blood and other blood components for transfusion, and plasma-derived medicinal products.

“We are still always in need of any blood products – it doesn’t really matter if you’re type O, A, B, negative or positive because the need is always constant. Blood has a shelf life, as do platelets, but the good news is whenever we are now collecting whole blood products, because we test everyone who donates blood, we are able to detect in that whole blood donation if you carry the COVID antibodies. And we can actually pull those COVID antibody platelets out of there for people who are perhaps in the hospital and need them.

“We’re still dealing with COVID and people in the ICU can benefit from products, we’re still dealing with surgeries every day, we’re still dealing with car accidents where people need a lot of blood. I can speak from my personal (experience): my husband went to the hospital in 2014 thinking he had the flu, and he ended up having endocarditis and having to have open heart surgery. He ended up having eight units of blood, which in a regular, normal neighborhood blood drive is almost half of the (units collected).

“We are, of course, hoping to surpass that number greatly with this drive, as we always do. This is our largest blood drive that we have for the Tennessee Valley area. It is just a tremendous donation (amount); the students, the faculty, the community there really gather together and support the need for blood. We’re very excited to have it again this year.”

McKinney said the blood donated in the Tennessee Valley area typically stays in the area unless there is a dire need somewhere else in the country.

“Blood is universal; blood is something we all can benefit from and you never know when you or someone you love is going to need it,” McKinney said. “We have such a great opportunity to make a difference for people by simply donating blood, and it’s a difference that can literally give a family back their father; it can help a child after surgery; it could help someone who has been injured in a car wreck when their parents think they’re not going to come back from it. So really, this is an opportunity to give life back and truly make a difference for someone without ever even knowing that person.”