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Winter storm leaves Red Cross in short supply of blood

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Candice Wiggins, right, prepares Aveo Dishman for blood donation during a blood drive put on by the Red Cross in Mendenhall Student Center on Jan. 11, 2018. (Molly Mathis/The Daily Reflector)


BY Michael Abramowitz
The Daily Reflector

Saturday, January 13, 2018

A winter storm that followed a period of low donations has left the eastern regional Red Cross blood donor center with an urgent need for blood donations, officials at the center at 700 Cromwell Drive in Greenville said Thursday.

The Red Cross’ need for blood seems overlooked each year during the busy holiday season of giving, but this year the organization took a double hit when eastern North Carolina was struck by a snowstorm and persistent sub-freezing weather the first week of the year, forcing cancellation of seven scheduled blood drives at schools, churches and other organizations, officials said.  

Donated whole blood has a shelf life of 42 days, and platelets, which allow blood to clot, have a five-day shelf life, said Bernadette Jay of the eastern North Carolina Red Cross Blood Services Region. The Red Cross sets a goal to maintain at least a five-day supply of blood at all times, but right now, donated blood is going out as fast as it is coming in, Jay said. 

“It’s a bit ironic, but we historically see a decline in donations during the holiday period between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day,” Jay said. “We try every year to remind people that the need doesn’t stop for the holidays or because of storms. There are patients in hospitals still depending on blood donations.”

Adding to the irony, people who forego blood donation during busy times of the year sometimes learn firsthand the value of donations when they find themselves or loved ones in need of blood that has consequently come into short supply, Jay said.

“Part of our responsibility is to educate people about the constant need for blood,” she said. “Because of the impact of the weather, we estimate that we need to engage 350 people each day in our region to keep up with our hospitals’ demand. On top of that, we had 650 fewer donations than we needed between Thanksgiving and New Year’s. We have the responsibility to meet those needs, so I challenge people to think about their family members and friends and you will find you probably know someone who has needed blood.”

The American Red Cross has made it easier and faster to donate blood — and even track your own history of blood donations. The RapidPass system is a four-step online process that takes about 10-15 minutes and includes information about preparing to donate and some health history questions, saving time when you go to a scheduled donation appointment. It can be printed for your records or can be emailed to yourself.

The Red Cross also has introduced the Blood Donor App that puts the power to save lives in the palm of your hand, said Cally Edwards, northeastern region executive director.

“Through the free app, users can schedule appointments, receive appointment reminders, track total donations, earn rewards and invite others to join them on a lifesaving team,” Edwards said. “It also can send you special blood shortage alert messages and let you know when the blood you donated was used to save a life. This app is a great new way to help meet the constant need for blood.”

Anyone interested in scheduling an appointment to donate blood or start a blood drive at work, church or school can call the American Red Cross Blood Donor Center at 800-733-2767, Bernadette Jay at 804-780-2258 or email customercare@redcross.org.