Black History Month highlights the need for a diverse blood supply

MADISON, Ala. - With February being Black History Month, it's a great reminder of the diversity in our community. It also serves as a reminder of the need for a diverse blood supply.

During the winter and summer months, LifeSouth Community Blood Centers have an increased need for blood because they are unable to gather from many of the school and community drives they do during other times of the year.

Right now their sign says they have an "Emergency Need" and when you walk inside, the shelves are almost empty.

Your ethnic background can make you more likely to be a match to someone with a similar ethnic background. For example, if you are African-American, you are more likely to be matched up with someone who is also African-American. The same thing goes for all other ethnicities. It is important that the blood bank has a diverse blood supply so that they are able to better serve our community.

The LifeSouth blood banks in the Huntsville area provide blood to 12 of the hospitals in Northern Alabama. They need a lot of blood to meet that demand.

Giving blood is a fairly easy process, it only takes 30-45 minutes from start to finish. They will run some tests to determine your blood type and make sure you are eligible to donate. Then they will poke you with a needle, which they claim is less painful than the flu shot, draw blood for 5-10 minutes and then you are good to go. They also have snacks available.

The donation center recommends that you eat a good breakfast before going in to donate and they recommend limited athletic activities for 24 hours after you've donated.

Donating blood not only has a positive emotional impact, research shows there may also be some health benefits such as reduced risk of cardiac arrest. Eric Fanchois of LifeSouth Community Blood Centers says "It's kind of like an oil change for your body."

The American Red Cross says someone in the United States needs blood every two seconds. Your donation can save up to 3 lives.

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