Making a difference in your community can add up without costing a cent, and Middle Tennessee State University and the American Red Cross have the perfect way to save — lives, that is.
This year’s “True Blue Blood Drive,” set Monday-Wednesday, Nov. 1-3, at the university’s Student Health, Wellness and Recreation Center at 1848 Blue Raider Drive, still has donor appointments open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. each day.
Donors can still make an appointment at the Red Cross website to give blood.
Appointments also are easy to schedule with the “American Red Cross Blood” app or by texting “BLOODAPP” to 90999.
“Every year, MTSU students, faculty and staff, along with alumni and community supporters, always surpass their goal for blood donation, and we expect to see that happen again this year,” said Garry Allison, regional donor services executive for the Red Cross Tennessee Region.
All donors will have free reserved parking at the Rec Center Nov. 1-3, and each will receive a new commemorative T-shirt, free pizza and a $20 Amazon e-gift card while supplies last.
The Red Cross says up to three patients can use the components from one unit of blood. An average 150- to 180-pound adult has about 10 units, or 1.5 gallons of blood; a newborn’s body has about one cup.
The annual blood drive, launched in 2010 by MTSU Director of Athletics and longtime blood donor Chris Massaro as a friendly competition with football rival Western Kentucky University, has continued through both conference bye years and the pandemic.
Between 2010 and 2019, MTSU and Western supporters together donated 9,800 total pints of blood, or 1,225 gallons, helping as many as 29,400 patients.
MTSU students, faculty, staff, alumni and supporters gave 5,318 pints of donated blood — nearly 665 gallons — between 2010 and 2020, saving about 15,954 lives across the region.
In effect, the universities’ donors have saved the equivalent of Oak Ridge, Tennessee, whose current population is 29,156, according to U.S. Census Bureau figures.
“Donating blood is a simple and easy way for all students to have a big impact on our whole community,” said Antonio Dodson of Murfreesboro, a junior economics major and philanthropic coordinator for MTSU’s Student Government Association.
“Blood transfusions are essential medical operations that save lives every day, and by donating blood, you are directly impacting the health of another person. Fortunately, it has never been easier to donate blood at MTSU.
“Shortages of donated blood for life-saving transfusions mean that it is more important than ever for students to donate at local blood drives,” Dodson added. “For students, it’s all about lending a hand and showing up, whether you have donated blood before or are trying it for the first time.”
Saving more lives, saluting super-donors
This year’s blood drive isn’t a competition. Instead, its focus is to share the need for blood for sickle cell disease patients and to salute three MTSU graduates whose combined lifetime blood donations can fill a small hot tub.
“We are so excited for this year’s drive as we celebrate the great gift of donation by three MTSU alumni and extraordinary donors, who combined have donated more than 1,300 units of blood [and platelets] over the years,” said Allison.
Edwin Alexander, Edward Baker and Billy Jones, Rutherford County’s current top blood donors, will be recognized with plaques and thanks during the upcoming drive.
Alexander, a second-generation donor who began rolling up his sleeves at age 17 to help the Red Cross, has so far donated 494 units of blood and platelets. Baker, who’s also an MTSU football season ticket holder, has donated 410 lifesaving units. Jones, who began donating about 15 years ago during a family member’s illness, has given 404 units of blood and platelets.
Some of the neighbors their gifts have helped are people with sickle cell disease, an inherited and extremely painful disorder that distorts and hardens red blood cells. Those cells lodge in blood vessels, creating conditions for strokes and organ failures.
Most sickle cell patients are of African descent. Donor blood transfusions give them healthy red cells to unblock the vessels and carry oxygen to their bodies.
Black donors’ blood is often the best match for sickle cell patients because it’s less likely to cause immune reactions. The Red Cross has more information about the disease and how important Black donors are in saving lives at its website.
MTSU community donors can save more time on their “True Blue Blood Drive” donation day by completing the required health questionnaire online at the Red Cross’s “Rapid Pass.”
The Red Cross requires all blood donors to wear masks while giving blood. Red Cross staffers also wear masks to protect donors, volunteers, co-workers and guests.
Organizers said MTSU donors can begin preparing for their appointments now by cutting back on caffeine, eating iron-rich foods and getting extra rest. The Red Cross has more blood donation tips at its website.
— Gina E. Fann (email@example.com)