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Holidays present problems for those in need of blood transfusions

HOUSTON – M.D. Anderson Hospital is facing a shortage of blood and asking for volunteers to donate over the Christmas and New Year holidays.

Cancer patients require frequent blood transfusions.

The hospital provides red blood cell and blood platelet transfusions for about 1,400 patients each day.

Blood stocks typically fall during the holidays as donors are distracted.

M.D. Anderson Blood Center manager Gary Griffin says about 50 donors a day are required to meet the hospital’s daily needs. As of Thursday, the blood center was averaging about six a day.

“If we don’t get that, we will have crisis and there will be an impact on patients' health,” Griffin said.

Brandon Durieux, 25, depends on the hospital for platelet transfusions about twice a week as he battles an aggressive form of leukemia.

“This time of year everyone is out getting presents and shopping,” Durieux said. “That’s the last thing in the back of their mind is donating blood and stuff like that, which is unfortunate, 'cause cancer doesn’t stop. It doesn’t let up. It doesn’t choose who it gets. It’s always there.”

His wife, Michelle, said she never donated blood until Brandon got sick last year. Before that, she had been afraid of needles.

“When I would get blood drawn at a doctor’s office, I would pass out,” she said. “I was that afraid of needles, but seeing him go through what he went through, I just manned up one day and went and did it, and it was not as bad as I thought it was going to be and I’ve been fine since then.”

One of the donors Thursday was Erica Smith, who teaches English at Clear Lake High School. She says she’s been a regular blood donor since she was 17 years old, and that when her mother died of cancer a few years ago, she began donating at M.D. Anderson.

“It’s the gift that keeps on giving,” she said. “It gives people their families back.”

The M.D. Anderson Blood Center is asking for volunteers to donate during the holidays. To make an appointment, call 713-792-7777. The center will be open through the weekend, including Christmas Day.