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Blood drives this week honor Isler, Monroe, other heroes

By Sara Gregory
Salisbury Post
Robert Stewart used to be a blood donor. But since 2005, Stewart relies on other donors to keep him alive.
Three years ago, doctors diagnosed Stewart with myelodysplastic syndrome, a bone marrow disease where not enough red blood cells mature.
Every Tuesday, he gets his blood tested, and depending on the test results, he’ll get a transfusion of type O positive blood.
Stewart says he owes his life to other blood donors.
“God bless ’em,” he said recently. “For them to take their time and give of themselves so that others like myself can keep on living and for them to save someone’s life, God bless ’em.”
To collect blood donations to help people such as Stewart, two blood drives are planned in honor of Salisbury firefighters Victor Isler and Justin Monroe, who died in the Salisbury Millwork fire in March.
“The main thing that we’re doing is a celebration of heroes,” said Sherry Smith, director of blood services for the Rowan County region. “Justin and Victor definitely were examples who sacrificed their lives for others.
The Elizabeth Hanford Dole Chapter of the American Red Cross hopes Isler and Monroe’s service and sacrifice will encourage people to give blood.
“They were there to help the person in need,” Smith said. “That’s the same message we want to send to people giving blood. When you’re giving blood, you’re helping people everywhere.”
The Red Cross holds 14 to 18 drives each month throughout the county and almost everyone can give blood. Donors must be at least 17 years old, weigh at least 110 pounds and be in good health.
Still, the Red Cross sees donor numbers slip during the summer months. Then, students who give blood at school drives are off on break, and families take vacations.
“During that time the inventory really suffers,” Smith said. “It’s a challenge.”
Especially crucial is the universal type O negative blood, which anyone can accept.
Donors are needed to meet an ever-increasing demand for blood. Last year, 7,061 units of blood were collected in Rowan County. This year, the Red Cross expects to surpass its goal of 7,023 units.
And the blood collected in Rowan County doesn’t all stay here, Smith said. After the school shootings at Virginia Tech, local blood helped victims there.
“They requested blood from us, and of course we sent it,” Smith said. “It’s anywhere there is a need. Without donations from volunteers in the community that wouldn’t be possible.
“That’s the reason why they’re heroes.”
Contact Sara Gregory at 704-797-4257 or sgregory@salisburypost.com.

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