The first blood drive of the year for Anniston Army Depot was a success, according to coordinator Carol Mitrisin.

A total of 538 depot and tenant employees lined up at the Physical Fitness Center May 22 to give the gift of life, making a total of 478 productive units. This surpassed the goal of 427 units.

American Red Cross collected blood from first and second shift employees, starting at midnight and finishing at noon.

Employees at the depot have donated nearly 120,000 units of red blood cells-or 15,000 gallons of blood-over the past 50 years. The depot plans to have one more blood drive in 2008.

Apheresis donations

The Red Cross says the depot\'s blood drives and its apheresis program is essential to saving lives.

Through the depot blood program, 93 vounteers here make the trip to Birmingham more than 20 times a year to give blood platelets through apheresis.

Unlike a whole blood donation in which a unit of whole blood is removed from the body, the apheresis process uses a machine that removes only one or two components--platelets, plsama or white cells--from the blood and then returns the reast of the blood back to the body.

The process takes between one and two hours, and the body will replace the donated platelets within 48 hours.