Blood drive, free COVID-19 antibody testing

Published 6:37 pm Thursday, July 23, 2020

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We are in the midst of a critical blood shortage along with the COVID-19 pandemic. The national blood supply is in danger of collapse, and without blood donations, we could be in jeopardy of causing another public health crisis — the inability to meet patients life-sustaining blood requirements.

We have an opportunity to help our fellow citizens during this unprecedented COVID-19

pandemic. St. Mary Basilica has a blood drive scheduled from 1 to 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at the O’Connor Family Life Center, 613 Main St., Natchez.

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In addition, each donation will be tested for COVID-19 antibodies. Results will be available in two weeks. Donating blood usually takes less than an hour.

Scheduling an appointment in advance may decrease your wait, and it helps the blood service schedule enough staff. If you schedule an appointment, and the time you can come changes, that’s OK too. offers a Fast Track Health History Questionnaire online you can complete the day of the blood drive, before you arrive, and it will save you about 20 minutes at the Family Life Center.

On their website, you can also find a medication deferral list, a country visitation deferral list, medical history eligibility and more.

Most health conditions are acceptable, and you may be eligible, even if you’ve been told in the past that you cannot donate. Pregnant women may not donate, but breastfeeding women are eligible.

Diabetics are eligible unless you’ve ever used bovine insulin manufactured in the UK. Lymphoma or leukemia survivors are deferred from donating in most cases, but other types of cancer are assessed at the time of donation, but generally 12 months must have passed since the last treatment and you must be considered cancer free.

Donors must be in good, overall health on the day of the blood drive including no fever or sniffles. Donors aged 16-17 must provide a permission form, signed by a parent/guardian, which can be found on the website.

If you meet certain criteria, you may even be able to give what is referred to as a Double Red donation or apheresis. A special machine is used to allow you to safely donate two units of red blood cells during one donation while returning your plasma and platelets to you. The process takes approximately 30 minutes longer than a whole blood donation.

Did you know that one donation can save up to three people?

Everyone has this valuable, self-generating resource that can easily be donated to save a fellow human being. At some point we will all know a friend, neighbor, family member or co-worker who needs a blood transfusion. In fact, one in three people will need blood in their lifetime.

Blood transfusions are necessary due to car accidents, cardiac and other surgeries, cancer and other diseases, and premature births. From natural disasters to unforeseen catastrophes, emergency hospital procedures to life-long battles with chronic diseases, the demand for blood is constant. There is absolutely no substitute. It just doesn’t exist. These people must count on healthy people to donate so that they can live.

You may be wondering if having a blood drive seems inconsistent with our efforts to maintain social distancing. On the contrary, blood donations are so important to our overall health and well being, that blood drives are considered an “essential” process. The U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams has said, “You can still go out and give blood.

Social distancing does not have to mean social disengagement.” Additional precautions and sanitizing protocols will be followed and masks are required.

Vitalant recommends that you eat within two hours ahead of your donation, avoiding fatty foods like hamburgers, donuts or ice cream. Drink plenty of water that day and 24-48 hours beforehand and eat foods rich in iron and vitamin C.

If you have any questions, call 877-258-4825. Please go to and sign up as soon as possible. Appointments are strongly encouraged. You can also call Regina at St. Mary Basilica rectory 601-445-5616, Susan Nielsen 504-258-6940 or me 601-431-9127.

Charlene Rushing is a member of Community Services at St. Mary Basilica.