Blood donation is considered the gift of life, as there's no substitute for human blood. However, the American Red Cross is at a historically low level of blood supply, according to New Bedford's Sidney Murray.

Murray is the Blood Ambassador for the Southeastern Chapter of the American Red Cross, and Chairman of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at the Greater New Bedford Community Health Center, serving as a bridge to underserved populations.

The busy holidays tend to contribute to a drop in blood donations, so some shortage is expected, but nothing like we're seeing to start 2022.

"This is more drastic and urgent," Murray said. "There's real fear out there. Potential blood donors don't want to walk into a hospital setting for fear they'll be exposed to COVID. Others tell me they're tired of getting jabbed. Only, emergency surgeries continue daily, auto accidents happen all the time and blood transfusions must go on each day. I keep repeating to people reluctant to donate that this is about helping others."

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Even if COVID-19 has people weary of donating blood, there are still many people who need life-saving transfusions whether there is an ongoing pandemic or not, especially in the Black community.

"Since we're honoring Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. today, it's appropriate I talk about sickle cell anemia, the most common form of inherited blood disorder that affects the Black population at much higher rates than people of other ethnicities," Murray said. "People with sickle cell describe the agonizing pain like sharp-edged glass shards running through their body."

Today's day honoring Dr. King is a great chance to show the same selflessness King preached.

"The patients relying on transfusions may not receive the blood they need. MLK Day is a day of service, and I'm asking you to please make an appointment online at 1-800-RED CROSS," he said.

Calling ahead is very important in the time of COVID.

"Please don't just show up to give. Everyone has to have an appointment," said Murray, who is usually found welcoming people at the Red Cross blood platelet and plasma donation center at 275 New State Highway in Raynham. The center can be reached at 1-800-733-2767 to schedule an appointment.

There are also ongoing Red Cross blood drives happening across Southeastern Massachusetts over the next two weeks.

In addition, volunteers are always needed to help staff the donation centers and blood drives.

"We're always looking for volunteers, especially ones that can speak Portuguese and Spanish," Murray said. "We rely on volunteers from different backgrounds to reflect the communities that we serve. Volunteering says a lot about you, while service is about the people, and making a real difference."

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