BILOXI, Miss. (WLOX) - It’s been 14 years since Hurricane Katrina roared ashore, changing the Mississippi Gulf Coast forever. To mark the monumental disaster, which claimed 238 lives in Mississippi and hundreds elsewhere, the American Red Cross is hosting its annual Hurricane Katrina Memorial Blood Drive once again.
It’s the 13th year that Red Cross has held the memorial blood drive and this year, as Mississippi faces a major shortage of blood across the state, the need is greater than ever. Blood is being distributed to hospitals faster than donations are coming in.
Blood donations are needed for many different reasons, including for accident and burn victims, heart surgery patients, organ transplant patients, and patients receiving treatment for cancer or sickle cell disease.
"It's the blood on shelves that helps save lives in an emergency," said Red Cross regional manager Ronnika McFall.
All eligible donors are encouraged to roll up a sleeve and help replenish the Red Cross blood bank, which serves communities locally across the Mississippi and Alabama coast.
Gulf Coast resident Claudia Dubose knows firsthand how blood donations can save lives. While pregnant, Dubose went into premature labor, giving birth a one-pound baby boy. Dubose's son had to be hospitalized in Mobile for nine months before he could come home, requiring blood given by donors to help keep him alive.
"If it wasn’t for blood donors, my son wouldn’t be here," said Dubose. "It's a blessing to have donors like you."
People who blood types O, A- and B- are encouraged to make Power Red donations, as well. That's when a concentrated dose of red blood cells is given during a single donation, which provides the most help for people in need of blood. During this type of donation, red blood cells are separated from other blood components and the all the plasma and platelets are safely and comfortable returned to the donor.
All donors will receive a commemorative t-shirt while supplies last.
For more information and to make an appointment to donate, download the American Red Cross Blood Donor App, visit RedCrossBlood.org or call 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767) sponsor code: KATRINA. Donors of all blood types are needed. A blood donor card or driver’s license or two other forms of identification are required at check-in. Individuals who are 17 years of age (16 with parental consent in some states), weigh at least 110 pounds and are in generally good health may be eligible to donate blood. High school students and other donors 18 years of age and younger also have to meet certain height and weight requirements.
Blood donors can now save time at their next donation by using RapidPass to complete their pre-donation reading and health history questionnaire online, on the day of their donation, from a computer or mobile device, prior to arriving at the blood drive. To get started and learn more, visit RedCrossBlood.org/RapidPass and follow the instructions on the site.