Originally created 02/11/01

Saturn sponsors blood drive



Rather than car sales, good will and giving seemed to be the theme Saturday at Saturn of Augusta's fourth annual National Donor Day.

"We are all supposed to take care of each other," said donor Walter Urdzela of Augusta. "Jesus gave all his blood for me; I can certainly give a pint for someone else."

Saturn Corp., its United Auto Workers partners and organizations such as The American Red Cross and the National Marrow Donor Program pooled efforts to raise awareness of the need for blood, organ and tissue donation.

Winter months are commonly times of shortage and critical need.

In fact, in the first week of January, the local Red Cross found itself with an emergency and no blood.

"Two traumas came in," said Becky McKenzie, donor recruiter for the American Red Cross. "And we did have to import blood from another region."

But Ms. McKenzie said there is no reason to be in such short supply.

"If every eligible donor would give just twice a year, we would never run out," she said.

Approximately 10,000 transfusions take place every day but only about 5 percent of the population donates blood.

Donating is just the beginning. National Donor Day 2001 is about getting donors for organs and tissues, too.

Nearly 75,000 patients in this country are waiting for organ transplants. An average of 16 people a day die before a suitable donor is found in time.

These are some of the things the employees at Saturn hope to change.

Angela Hillesland, public relations director, mailed out invitations to more than 400 local Saturn owners for the occasion.

Tom Luchino is one of those owners.

"I've been a donor since high school," he said. But after his nephew was diagnosed with leukemia, the importance of donors hit close to home, he said. He is also registered to donate bone marrow.

So he planned his Saturday around the Saturn event.

"I knew they were doing this, and I had to get my car serviced anyway," he said.

Reach Lisa M. Lohr at (706) 823-3332.

Donation information

For more information on how you can become a blood, tissue, organ, bone marrow or umbilical cord blood donor, contact the following organizations:

American Medical Association: www.ama.assn.org/organdonation

Coalition on Donation: www.shareyourlife.org

National Marrow Donor Program: www.marrow.org

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: www.organdonor.gov