The American Red Cross has issued an emergency call for blood and platelet donations in response to a severe winter blood shortage and asks eligible donors to make an appointment to give now.
The Red Cross provides about 40 percent of the nation’s blood supply, and right now, Red Cross blood products are being distributed to hospitals faster than donations are coming in. Hectic holiday schedules for many regular blood donors contributed to about 37,000 fewer donations in November and December than what was needed. Snowstorms and severe weather have also impacted donations. Nearly 100 blood drives were forced to cancel in December, resulting in more than 3,100 blood donations going uncollected.
“Hospital patients need lifesaving blood this winter, and they’re relying on the generosity of volunteer donors to provide hope in the days and weeks ahead,” said Chris Hrouda, executive vice president, Red Cross Blood Services. “The Red Cross is doing everything it can to ensure blood products are available on the shelves when patients need it, but we can’t do it alone. We need eligible individuals to give blood and platelets as soon as possible.”
The Red Cross must collect nearly 14,000 blood and platelet donations every day for patients at about 2,600 hospitals and transfusion centers nationwide. Accident and burn victims, heart surgery and organ transplant patients, and patients receiving treatment for leukemia, cancer or sickle cell disease may all require blood to save their lives. January is National Blood Donor Month, a perfect time to resolve to help save lives by giving blood or platelets.
Eligible blood donors are urged to schedule a donation today by using the Red Cross Blood Donor app, visiting redcrossblood.org or calling 1-800-REDCROSS (1-800-733-2767). Donors can help even more people by inviting a family member, friend or co-worker to donate too. The Red Cross encourages individuals to make a donation appointment and to complete a RapidPass online health history questionnaire to help speed up the donation process.
The Red Cross is extending hours at many donation sites to offer more opportunities for individuals to give lifesaving blood and platelet donations. Overall, the Red Cross has added nearly 200 hours to donation centers and community blood drives across the country over the next few weeks.
Individuals who are 17 years of age in most states (16 with parental consent where allowed by state law), weigh at least 110 pounds and are in generally good health may be eligible to donate blood. High school students and other donors 18 years of age and younger also have to meet certain height and weight requirements.
All blood types are needed to help ensure a sufficient blood supply is available for patients. Eligible donors with types O, A negative and B negative blood are urged to make a Power Red donation, where available. Power Red donors give a concentrated dose of red blood cells during a single donation, allowing them to maximize their impact. Eligible donors with type AB blood are especially needed to donate platelets or plasma, where available, or whole blood.
Platelets, a key clotting component of blood often needed by cancer patients, must be transfused within five days of donation and, therefore, are always in high demand. By giving platelets regularly, donors can help patients recover from cancer and other life-threatening illnesses and injuries. Plasma, another blood component, helps maintain blood pressure and supplies critical proteins for clotting and immunity. It is often needed for burn, trauma and clotting factor deficiency patients.