This is the message Chris Dexter wants people to receive when considering donating blood to the Shepeard Community Blood Center. Dexter’s son Alex received multiple blood transfusions while undergoing chemotherapy. While his son was in treatment, Dexter donated blood four times and his wife donated two or three times, but was unable to do so while she was pregnant.
Although Alex passed away from cancer in 2020, Dexter continues to donate every eight weeks, which is how often you can donate. He encourages others to give too.
“It’s not that scary,” he said. “It’s painless for the most part and it only takes 20 to 30 minutes of your day. You are a true superhero in life… You are going to be so glad you did.”
Alex is one of many children who need blood transfusions for illnesses. Shane Padgett’s son Andrew Padgett needed four transfusions after being admitted to hospital on Christmas Day 2019. Andrew suffers from spherocytosis, a condition that affects red blood cells and often causes anemia. Her hemoglobin level dropped to four and her body went into hemolysis, the destruction of red blood cells. A normal hemoglobin level for children is between 11 and 13.
Since neither Padgett nor his wife were able to donate blood, they have become advocates for others to give and save lives like their son’s.
“I don’t think most people think it makes a big deal so they don’t donate blood, but when you need it due to critical cases and there isn’t, it means the situation will remain critical, ”said Padgett.
On May 19, Shepeard reported an already low amount of blood available for distribution to the 23 hospitals it serves in Georgia and South Carolina. It has experienced multiple shortages since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic last spring. It is the only blood distributor at the University Hospital, AU Medical Center and Georgia Children’s Hospital.
In the summer, people flock to swimming pools, beaches, parties and other activities, creating more opportunities for car accidents and other incidents where blood transfusions might be needed. Due to the fact that many donors are out of town or busy, Shepeard sees a decrease in the number of donors as the needs increase.
As the summer sees an increase in blood transfusions, the need never really diminishes, said community resource manager Ashley Whitaker. Needs vary throughout the year, but Whitaker said if residents donate at least three times a year, it will end the current blood shortage.
Shepeard encourages donations of all blood types, but especially O positive and O negative. Those who have received the COVID-19 vaccine can still donate, Whitaker said.
The blood bank currently has three locations open in Aiken, Augusta and Evans, with plans to open a fourth location on July 1 in Dublin. Bloodmobiles also visit various locations throughout the summer for blood drives. They are temperature controlled to make sure the donors are comfortable.
Donors must be in good general health, weigh at least 110 pounds, and be at least 17 or 16 years of age with written parental consent. They must also bring photo ID or Shepeard Donor Card to donate.
For questions or to make an appointment, call Shepeard at (706) 737-4551.
How to make a donation
Visit www.shepeardblood.org to find searchable blood donation locations by city, zip code, date and sponsor name and to register to donate. The three Shepeard Community Blood Centers currently open are:
Augustus: 1533 Wrightsboro Road; (706) 737-4551; open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. from Monday to Saturday
Evans: 4329 Washington Road; (706) 854-1582; open 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday
Aiken: 353 Fabian Drive (in the Hitchcock Plaza shopping center); (803) 643-7996; open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. from Tuesday to Saturday
The next blood drives are planned for:
June 3 – Lullwater in Riverwood, 120 Lullwater Drive, Evans; 3 p.m. to 7 p.m.
June 5 – Papa John’s, 217 C Edgefield Road, North Augusta; noon to 4 p.m.
June 6 – Revitalize Martinez Church, 4350 Wheeler Road; 9 am-1pm
Grace Church of Aiken, 144 Talatha Church Road, Aiken; 9 am-1pm
June 7 – 2nd City Distilling Co., 4 8th St .; 11 am-3pm
June 8 – Augusta Oncology Associates, 3696 Wheeler Road; 10 am-3pm
Georgia Military College / Brenau, 115 David Road, Martinez; 9 am-1pm
June 9 – Sizemore, 2003 Gordon Hwy .; 9 am-4pm
June 10 – Career Personnel Inc., 821 Broad Street; 10 am-3pm; a COVID-19 vaccination pop-up opportunity will also be available for walk-in people from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. with the Pfizer vaccine available for ages 12 and up, Johnson & Johnson vaccine for ages 18 and over. The vaccines will be administered by the Richmond County Health Department.