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Red Cross more than just a blood bank

Making certain there’s a safe and sufficient blood supply is one of the most important challenges of the American Red Cross, said Peggy Lake, who works for the organization and was guest speaker at Tuesday’s Desloge Chamber of Commerce meeting.

“But that’s not all we do,” said Lake. “When you see a natural or other kind of disaster on television, you always see The American Red Cross out there making sure the people have food, clothes and a place to stay.”

Lake reminded attendees that The American Red Cross was on the scene offering assistance at disasters such as the Joplin tornado, Hurricane Katrina, the Haiti and Japan earthquakes, 9-11 and the Desloge tornado in 1957.

“I lived in Desloge 21 years, but my family has been there for 60 some years,” she said. “I remember that when the Desloge tornado came through town my grandmother’s two-story house was totally blown away. She lost everything except for a gold locket she received at the age of 13. I was only 6 years old when this happened, but I remember that my grandmother and others in town had free food, they had a house, food and dishes. Where did all this come from? The American Red Cross.”

Lake said the American Red Cross is broken into two divisions — covering disasters and providing blood donation sites. As she focused more on blood donations, she shared the following facts:

• Of eligible blood donors, less than 8 percent actually donate.

• Blood donations help accident victims, surgical patients and burn victims.

“Who can donate blood?” asked Lake. “Almost anyone. You have to be in good health, 16 years old or older, at least 110 pounds, not on certain medications, haven’t traveled to malaria-risk locations and have no tattoos or piercings. Those who donate blood can do so every 56 days.”

The entire donation process takes no more than an hour. When a donor comes to a Red Cross blood donation site, they are given educational material to read and approximately 50 questions to answer. The donor’s temperature, blood pressure, pulse and iron level is checked.

“The time it takes to actually give the blood is only five to 10 minutes,” said Lake. “After you’ve donated you’re given refreshments before you leave.”

The main reason people don’t donate blood is because of fear. She said that men are often the ones most uncomfortable about giving blood.

“They don’t like the needles,” said Lake. “Here they are, these big guys and they fall apart thinking about being stuck with a needle.”

In turn, she said women tend to be braver when it comes to blood donation. So, what happens once the blood is donated? It’s broken down into red blood cells, plasma and platelets.

“Red blood cells are used when people are in accidents,” explained Lake. “It’s only good for 42 days. Plasma, often used for burn victims, can be frozen for one year. Platelets, helpful to cancer patients, can only be kept for five days. That’s why we always have a blood shortage. The American Red Cross depends on high school and college students for a lot of the blood that’s donated. That’s why the summer, when schools are out, we have an even greater shortage of blood. The winter is also a time of extreme shortage because the weather is the source of additional accidents and often forces the cancellation of blood donation sites.”

Lake encouraged those present to educate their family about the importance of blood donation — and to donate blood. If they can’t donate themselves, she said to find someone to give blood in their place.

“There is no substitute for blood,” Lake said. “Generous donors take time to donate.”

In concluding her presentation, Lake asked the crowd to consider what the world would be like without The American Red Cross.

“Who would wrap a blanket around an airline passenger who has just been rescued from the cold waters of the Hudson River,” she asked. “Who would care for shelter victims forced to evacuate their homes due to floods, tornadoes, wildfires and hurricanes? Who would get blood to a child fighting cancer or a message to a soldier far from home?”

To make an appointment or for more information go to or call 1-800-REDCROSS. Walk-ins are welcome.  

Kevin R. Jenkins is a reporter for the Daily Journal and can be reached at 573-431-2010, ext. 114 or at

Key Words: Desloge Chamber of Commerce  The American Red Cross  Peggy Lake  blood donations 

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