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Local community sees shortage in blood donations

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BATON ROUGE - The ongoing blood shortage has only gotten worse, but Baton Rouge General is stepping up to the challenge and officials are urging the public to do the same.

The extreme lack of blood supply is the worst the state has seen in 25 years. Baton Rouge General is calling it a crisis.

"We're experiencing a severe shortage. Typically around this time of the year there is a shortage, but the weather has made it even worse and the pandemic has also made it bad," Lab Director Julia Pham said.

In addition to the ongoing pandemic, the severe weather, including freezing temperatures and icy roads, has put a halt to blood being transferred across Louisiana. The winter storm has also kept donors away as some had trouble just leaving the house.

Baton Rouge General is hosting blood drives across all three of its campuses to reverse that downward trend.

"We depend and rely on our friends, our neighbors, the community to come out and support us and support our patients," Pham said.

One patient, and familiar face, says he tries his best to do his part and donate whenever he can.

"You can't replace it. I mean, put it this way, you need someone else's blood to replace that for someone who needs it now," Senator Bill Cassidy said.

Senator Bill Cassidy spent part of his Sunday afternoon at BRG's Mid City location donating blood. Free time spent giving to those in need, Cassidy says it's time well spent.

"My blood happens to be good for newborns and so they take my plasma and give it to those children. I get the privilege of helping to save a newborn's life. Someone else would have the privilege of saving someone else's life. And my gosh, it's something we could do for one another," Cassidy said.

In addition to that feeling of doing a good deed, donors will also receive a t-shirt, meal ticket for the hospital's cafeteria and cafe, and an antibody test all free of charge.

"That's pretty cool. You know, I've been infected, so if my antibody test is sky high I get to tell my wife, hey baby you don't have to worry about anything," Cassidy said.

But for those who are worried about contracting the virus, Cassidy reassures that donating blood with BRG is safe.

"They do everything professionally. It is a hospital. If anyone knows how to prevent others from being infected with the coronavirus, it's here in a hospital," Cassidy said.

Just one day ahead of the COVID-19 vaccination requirement expansion for teachers, school staff, and pregnant women, Cassidy says it's important to continue vaccinating as many people as possible to get back to a "normal society." One that includes being able to donate blood without fear of contracting a deadly disease.

"Time to get out, time to resume life. No better way than to help your neighbor. Do onto others as you would have them do onto you, as scripture says, and by donating blood," Cassidy said.

Baton Rouge General will continue to collect donations through Feb. 26, though LifeShare will accept them at any time at 5745 Essen Lane in Baton Rouge.

Upcoming blood drives across BRG's three locations are listed below:

- Bluebonnet: Monday, Feb. 22 from 6 a.m. to noon (Conference room)

- Ascension: Tuesday, Feb. 23 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

- Bluebonnet: Wednesday, Feb. 24 from noon to 6 p.m. (Conference room)

- Ascension: Thursday, Feb. 25 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

- Mid City: Friday, Feb. 26 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. (Conference room)

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