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Blood drive battle is a win for all

Donors had a special, extra incentive to give blood at the 10th annual Heartland Heroes Blood Drive Friday, Sept. 4 — not only could their donation potentially save lives, but it could also reveal a previous case of COVID-19 and allow for the opportunity to help those in a difficult battle with the virus.

Each year the Farmville Police Department, the Farmville Fire Department and the American Red Cross team up to put on the blood drive. The event normally involves a day of cooking out and fundraising as both departments offer up hot dogs, burgers and more to the generous donors. During the event, donors give their blood “in honor” of either the police department or the fire department, and the organization with the most votes at the end of the day takes home the Heartland Heroes Blood Drive trophy.

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the drive did not feature a cookout this year, and walk-ins were not accepted. However, residents were scheduled from noon to 6 p.m. to come in and donate at the blood drive, located at Johns Parish House on High Street in Farmville.

And if potentially saving a life wasn’t motivation enough to come out to the drive, the potential for COVID-19 antibody testing was.

Marla Watson, account manager in biomedical services with the American Red Cross, was present Friday afternoon at the event. She said the American Red Cross is ramping up all safety protocols for donation events in the midst of the global health crisis, including wearing masks and gloves and wiping down every item involved in the donation process in between every single donation.

Donors also get their temperatures checked at the door.

“The donor response has been fantastic,” she said.

According to Watson, the American Red Cross began in mid- June to offer COVID-19 antibody testing to all blood donors. When donors do their typical donation, their blood is automatically tested for coronavirus antibodies, indicating they have had or have been exposed to the virus in the past. They can then get their antibody results within seven to 10 days of the donation.

Watson said those who test positive for coronavirus antibodies can actually donate convalescent plasma in order to help those extremely sick with the virus.

Donors can also use the organization’s Blood Donor app to schedule and manage appointments and check on their antibody results.

It’s expected the American Red Cross will continue antibody testing at blood donation events until the end of the year at the earliest.

During the drive, Alpha Phi Omega nursing students were volunteering throughout the day to help get donors prepped and ready.

Farmville Police Department Lieutenant Chris Moss, who helps put the drive on each year, was pleased with the turnout for the drive on Friday, adding that things were running very smoothly.

Moss said volunteers had heard from many donors that the donation was not just rewarding, but reassuring, allowing many members of the community to find out about a possible past run in with the coronavirus. If that wasn’t reason enough to donate, donors also got a cool pair of socks to take home with them.

At the end of the day, the Farmville Police Department went home with the trophy, taking with them a 33-29 victory, but the day was certainly a win-win for all involved.

Since it began in 2011, the Heartland Heroes Blood Drive has collected more than 568 units of blood, potentially saving up to 1,700 lives.