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Blood drive planned; donors needed

Imagine a loved one seriously injured in a car crash and rushed to the emergency room in need of blood. 

What happens if no blood is available?

That is one of the questions Dee Severson, coordinator for the American Red Cross, asks when people don’t feel they are up to giving blood. One unit, which is collected in a single donation, may be used to save three lives.

“You could save three brand new babies. You could save three mothers, three dads,” Severson said. “The blood isn’t manufactured in a test tube. It has to come from a person. If they don’t do it. It’s not there.”

And right now, Severson said the need is great. 

“The blood banks are so very, very low it’s getting scary,” she said, adding the blood bank is more than 3,000 units short of where it should be, a significant issue in the event of a disaster.

After Sept. 11, Severson said when New York City had a need for blood the call came to Minnesota. A special plane was allowed to fly its blood cargo between Minnesota and New York even when all other flights were grounded, Severson said.

“It was a godsend, we had the blood to borrow to them,” she said, noting Minnesota donations take care of hospitals here first but lend extra blood to other states if the need is there. 

This month, lakes area residents will have the opportunity to give blood during a five-day American Red Cross blood drive known as the Battle of the Badges. The drive gives blood donors the chance to pick their “favorite hero” between the police officers and firefighters. Donors to the police officers receive a coupon for a dozen free doughnuts, provided free of charge by Cub Foods. Firefighter supporters receive a coupon for hot wings donated by Buffalo Wild Wings. Firefighters have won for the past two years. Additionally, donors receive a free ticket to a Lunkers summer baseball game. 

“The main thing is to get people in to donate because the blood banks are so low, because you never know when you are going to need blood,” Severson said.  

This is Severson’s 20th year working on the blood drive. The drive, March 14-18 at the Heritage Assembly of God church in Baxter, is the largest in a five-state area for number of days and volume of people, Severson said. 

Each time there are many deferrals because potential donors don’t have enough iron in their blood. Severson said that’s really been an issue since people stopped cooking on cast iron pans and diets changed. Severson said taking a tablespoon of molasses morning, noon and night is a quick fix and may be taken with a cookie or in milk, or in Cream of Wheat cereal, which is also rich in iron. Other iron-rich sources include spinach, liver and Grape Nuts. 

The guidelines also have changed so people who have had cancer or diabetes, for example, are now eligible. Severson said potential donors who thought they were ineligible to donate blood, should call (800) 426-2164 to get current guidelines.

Donating blood takes about 45 minutes to an hour. Walk-ins are frowned upon to make sure those with appointments can get in and out in a timely fashion. But if someone unexpectedly has time free, a call to 838-5433 will be able to determine if an opening is available. 

During Severson’s 20 years of service, 28,224 units of blood were collected. Severson’s work as a coordinator was honored by the Red Cross at the Mall of America. But she is quick to brush that effort aside. She noted one man has given 123 units and others up to 100 units of blood. 

“You divide that and that’s a lot of lives,” Severson said. “It’s the people I want to thank for it. They are the ones who made this happen, not me alone. If no one showed up, we couldn’t do it.”

RENEE RICHARDSON may be reached at or 855-5852.