Having trouble finding that perfect gift this holiday season? Consider the gift that keeps givingblood.

One unit of blood translates into three or four blood products whose shelf lives range from five days to one year when frozen, said Crystal Bennett, donor resources assistant for the American Red Cross, Greater Alleghenies Region.

“All it takes is a little more than an hour’s time and a little less than a pint of blood to work a miracle for cancer patients, accident victims and many others who depend upon donated blood to survive,”Bennett said.

Every few seconds someone in the United States needs blood, and the red stuff cannot be manufactured, according to the Red Cross.

Of particular concern is the low supply of O-negative, the universal blood type that can be given to anyone in an emergency when there is no time to cross-match a patient’s blood, Bennett said.

The Greater Alleghenies Region tries to maintain a five-day supply of 500 units of O-negative, and inventories are down to 68 units, less than a day’s supply, she added.

Giving blood is easy, Bennett said. Red Cross staff check donors’blood pressures, iron levels and temperatures, then phlebotomists draw less than a pint of blood. Donors should eat a meal before giving blood.

December blood drives at West Virginia University:

  • Thursday, Dec. 4, 10 a.m.-4 p.m., One Waterfront Place (sponsored by WVU Staff Council)
  • Thursday, Dec. 18, 10 a.m.-4 p.m., Health Sciences Center, John Jones Conference Room (appointments only; call 598-4095)

For more information, call the American Red Cross, Greater Alleghenies Region, at 1-800-732-0383.