Blood shortage hurts hospitals
A seasonal shortage of blood donors around the nation has led to what the Red Cross is calling a blood emergency.
In the past few months, the Red Cross has seen 61,000 fewer blood donations than average. That is equivalent to the approximate number of losses the Red Cross would see if it received no donations for more than four days.
“A lot of people just don’t think about giving blood,” said Alana Mauger, external communications manager for the Northeastern Pennsylvania Blood Services Region. “Most people who take exit surveys say before they donated the first time, they never thought about it.”
Blood shortages often worsen around Independence Day due to fewer volunteer-hosted blood drives at places of work, worship or community gathering spaces. Nearly 700 fewer blood drives are scheduled during the Independence Day week than the weeks before and after the holiday.
Mauger said the December holidays can also cause a drop in donations, especially if there is heavy snow.
“Last year, northeast Pennsylvania had four days of drives canceled because of it,” she said.
The Penn-Jersey and Northeastern Pennsylvania Blood Services Regions must collect approximately 1,000 units of blood and platelets every day to meet patient and hospital demand. During blood emergencies, hospitals can have patients delay necessary procedures until more blood is available.
Otherwise, Mauger said, hospitals must sometimes send patients elsewhere.
“Donating isn’t as scary as some people might think,” she said. “The donation process takes about an hour, but you’re only in the donation chair for 8 to 10 minutes on average, and you feel great afterward because you’re helping.”
Mauger said first-time donors should visit redcrossblood.org and look for the section for those donating the first time to learn more about the process going in. She said donors should eat a good meal and drink plenty of liquids before donating. She also said donors should ask questions when they donate.
“The technicians are there ready to help with any questions you might have while you’re there,” she said.
Volunteers are needed in ways that don’t involve donating blood. Organizations also need volunteers to help transport blood and help run blood drives.
“When you go to a blood drive, the people who check you in and greet you, they’re all volunteers, and we need them. We also need volunteer drivers to help transport the blood,” Mauger said. “You can also host virtual blood drives and have others donate on your behalf by going to redcrossblood.org/sleevesup.”
The Red Cross has added more than 25,000 additional appointment slots at donation centers and community blood drives across the country over the next few weeks to accommodate more donors.
For more information, go to redcrossblood.org or call 800-733-2767.