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Midtown blood center asking for Christmas donations

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ATLANTA -

During the holidays the blood supply drops critically low. This year, the American Red Cross' Midtown Blood Donor Center is trying something new. They're asking people to give blood on Christmas morning.

At 28, Erin Blonshine is living her dream as a teacher at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta at Egleston.

"I feel like I am doing everything I used to do, and then some," Blonshine said.

Four years ago, Erin was battling leukemia for the second time. She went through a bone marrow transplant with the help of blood products donated by strangers.

"I was just thankful every time I needed it that it was there," Blonshine said.

Erin needed blood products 48 times. She knows because her parents kept track, hoping to one day donate it all back.

"The platelets were huge," said Blonshine. "I needed platelets more often than I needed blood products."

At the American Red Cross Midtown Blood Donor Center, retired teacher Dale Danneman doesn't know who will receive the platelets she's donating.  To her it doesn't matter -- she gives because she can.

"I don't think most people realize that to give blood is only like a 20 minute procedure, but to give platelets is a two and a half hour or so," said Danneman. "But, it's the idea of giving to others that need things."

Matthew Segars has donated blood 11 times. This is his first time giving platelets,

"One of my friends, his mom had leukemia, and she needed platelets continually," Segars said "That's what helped her get through it."

But during the holidays, blood donations drop sharply. So this year, the Midtown Donor Center is asking donors to start a new tradition: Give blood on Christmas Day.  

"The need for blood is constant," said Kristen Stancil, a spokesperson for the American Red Cross. "It doesn't take a break. It doesn't take a holiday."

Just ask the 24 blood cancer patients spending the holidays in the Winship Cancer Institute's Bone Marrow Transplant Unit at Emory Hospital, where Drea Fels is a nurse.

"What our patients are going through is cancer that specifically lies in their bone marrow," Fels said. "So what we have to do is completely clean out their bone marrow, which includes their  immune system, and take it away.  We do that with chemo."

Until their new, transplanted immune systems take over, patients rely on donated red blood cells - and platelets - to help their blood clot, and prevent life-threatening bleeding. Platelets are a precious commodity there.

"We love our platelets. We don't let them go to waste," Fels said. "We try to get every single ounce in our tubing. We do everything we can to get those platelets into our patients, because it's essential for them."

Blonshine not only beat leukemia, she got to meet her bone marrow donor, and say thank you.
Her winning fight against cancer taught her a lot.

"That relationships are important, and loving people is important," said Blonshine. "Just all of those things that I saw in other people that came to visit me as I was going through it. I just realized what it's all about."

Erin hopes Atlantans will show up on Christmas morning and give back the best kind of gift.

The Red Cross accepts walk-in donations, but they prefer you to make an appointment on Christmas. They already have a full roster of platelet donors for Christmas day, but have open slots available for blood donors. The center is located at 1955 Monroe Drive NE in Atlanta. They'll be open from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Dec. 25.
For more info, visit: http://www.redcrossblood.org/

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