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by Abigail Van Buren

Blood Donors Work Miracles for Those Struggling to Live

DEAR ABBY: May I comment on the letter from "Little Abby's Mom" regarding the need for blood donors? I delivered my second child three months premature. He had many of the problems that premature babies go through. While he was in the neonatal ICU, his bone marrow stopped making red blood cells, and he needed two transfusions. None of my family members were able to donate blood for him, and without the use of community blood, my son would have died. I am grateful to those blood donors who, probably without knowing it, are heroes in their own right.

I am a coward when it comes to needles. Because of this, I ask that someone hold my hand when I donate blood. I receive a few snickers from onlookers, but I couldn't allow another mommy who may be facing the same problem to experience the anguish of not having "nice, clean" blood for her child.

Please, Abby print my letter so "Little Abby's Mom" knows I said thank you for recognizing how important it is for even cowards like me to donate blood. It's easy and takes only a small amount of time to help save the lives of so many people. -- FAITHFUL BLOOD DONOR IN PHOENIX

P.S. My son is now 6 years old and brings joy to everyone with whom he comes in contact.

DEAR FAITHFUL: If your letter isn't a forceful reminder of how important our nation's blood supply is to all of us, perhaps the next letter will do the trick. Read on:

DEAR ABBY: The letter from the new mother whose life was saved by six units of blood from anonymous donors prompts this letter. Thank you very much for printing it.

I, too, have experienced the wonder and miracle of donated blood. Our son had leukemia. During the course of his disease, there were several instances when he became white as a sheet, droopy, listless and exhausted. He would have to go to the hospital emergency room, where he was put in a reclining chair with a bag of blood hanging on a "tree" beside him.

It was miraculous to see his transition to a pink-faced, bright-eyed, lively, energetic boy who talked enthusiastically about life, what he wanted to do, where he wanted to go and things he had seen.

Our son literally was given the gift of life. I am grateful to those anonymous blood donors who gave a few hours of their time and a few pints of blood so that our son could live a few more months. -- LOUISE IN CALIFORNIA

DEAR LOUISE: After reading your graphic letter, no one can doubt the importance of available blood as artillery in the battle for life. Now for some important information:

DEAR ABBY: There is a common misunderstanding that all blood comes from the Red Cross. In fact, while the Red Cross provides about 46 percent of the nation's blood, a network of independent, nonprofit, community-focused blood banks supply 47 percent of America's blood. Hospital-owned blood banks provide about 7 percent.

For the 72 community blood banks who work 24 hours a day to assure enough blood is available for the critically ill and injured in their respective communities, this is an important distinction. Thank you for helping to make this known. -- LISA MAYLES, DIRECTOR OF PUBLIC RELATIONS, LIFESHARE, NORTHEAST OHIO'S COMMUNITY BLOOD CENTER

DEAR READERS: To find the nearest community-focused blood center, call 1-888-256-6388 for the independent blood centers' hotlines.