The American Red Cross and country music star Martina McBride have joined together this holiday season to remind folks to take care of one another, sharing comfort and joy with hospitals patients through the gift of blood donation.

Health emergencies don’t pause for a pandemic, nor for holiday celebrations. The Red Cross needs the help of blood donors across the country now to ensure patients continue to have access to lifesaving blood.

As the U.S. experiences a new surge in COVID-19 cases, the Red Cross is becoming increasingly concerned about the nation’s blood supply—including convalescent plasma. A convalescent plasma donation collects plasma from COVID-19 survivors because antibodies to the disease in their blood may help patients who are currently fighting the virus. Increased hospitalization of patients with coronavirus this fall and winter, has caused the Red Cross to distribute a record number of COVID-19 plasma products to hospitals treating patients who are battling the virus.

This holiday season, Martina McBride is reaching out to country music fans and all eligible individuals, “If nobody has ever asked you to give blood before, I’m asking you to give blood—especially during this trying time.”

As a thank you for helping meet the need for blood donations from Nov.15 through Dec. 15, Suburban Propane is offering blood, platelet and plasma donors a chance to win an Outdoor Living Experience, powered by Propane, to enable a lucky winner to enjoy socially distanced celebrations with family and friends this holiday season. The prize includes a propane-powered pizza oven, fire pit, outdoor heater and stipend towards propane.

“Through our SuburbanCares initiative, giving back to our local communities is a top priority, and what better way to do that than to donate blood. Suburban is delighted to sponsor a Propane Experience Giveaway to help motivate more people to give the gift of life this holiday season,” said Nandini Sankara, spokesperson for Suburban Propane.

Eligible individuals are urged to make an appointment to donate blood now to help patients in need. Find a donation opportunity using the Red Cross Blood Donor App, visiting RedCrossBlood.org or calling 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767).

“Giving comfort to patients by providing lifesaving blood products is fundamental to the Red Cross mission. However, it’s not possible without the support of generous blood donors and dedicated partners, like Martina McBride and Suburban Propane,” said Paul Sullivan, senior vice president at the American Red Cross. “While we have certainly experienced unparalleled hardships this year, we have also witnessed great acts of kindness—like COVID-19 survivors rolling up their sleeves to share their antibodies with patients battling the illness. Donating blood, plasma or platelets is an act of kindness that truly makes a lifesaving difference.”

LIFESAVING PLASMA BRINGS JOY AND A SECOND CHANCE Lacy Atkinson is a 37-year-old COVID-19 survivor, in part thanks to a stranger who rolled up their sleeves to donate convalescent plasma and help her body fight back. Lacy’s life was turned upside down when she was hospitalized for COVID-19 in September. During her stay, infectious disease doctors tried multiple treatments to help her recover with limited success—but she just wasn’t getting better. “My oxygen levels were still low, and I had severe pneumonia in both my lungs,” Lacy said.

Desperate to help her, doctors offered the one treatment they had left: convalescent plasma. Thankfully, this treatment helped her recover.

“I felt such gratitude for the donor who helped me beat COVID. I have a husband, two kids, and three dogs, that I desperately wanted to get home to. I have a lot of life left to live! I’m so thankful that plasma was available when I needed it.”

COVID-19 ANTIBODY TESTING OF BLOOD DONATIONS The Red Cross is testing all blood donations for COVID-19 antibodies which helps provide insight to our donors concerning possible prior exposure to this virus. Donors can expect to receive the results of their antibody test within one to two weeks through our Red Cross Blood Donor App or on our donor portal at RedCrossBlood.org. As part of this effort, plasma from whole blood donations that test positive for COVID-19 antibodies may now help current coronavirus patients in need of convalescent plasma. Each week, whole blood donors with COVID-19 antibodies are helping to contribute between 350-500 units of potentially lifesaving convalescent plasma for patients in need.

The Red Cross is not administering diagnostic tests intended to diagnose illness. As such, to protect the health and safety of our staff and donors, it is important that individuals who do not feel well or believe they may be ill with COVID-19 postpone donation.

COVID-19 BLOOD DONATION SAFETY Each Red Cross blood drive and donation center follows the highest standards of safety and infection control, and additional precautions – including temperature checks, social distancing and face coverings for donors and staff – have been implemented to help protect the health of all those in attendance. Donors are encouraged to schedule an appointment prior to arriving at the drive and are required to wear a face covering or mask while at the drive, in alignment with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention public guidance.

All blood types are needed to ensure a reliable supply for patients. 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 in most states (16 with parental consent where allowed by state law), 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 and platelet donors can 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, before arriving at the blood drive. To get started, follow the instructions at RedCrossBlood.org/RapidPass or use the Blood Donor App.

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