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Red Cross calls for donors amid emergency blood shortage

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Anthony Yamada donates blood platelets at the Eastern Carolina Blood Donation Center on Red Banks road Friday, July 13, 2018.

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By Tyler Stocks
The Daily Reflector

Monday, July 16, 2018

An emergency blood shortage is prompting the American Red Cross to issue an urgent call for eligible donors of all blood types — especially type O — to give now and help save lives.

The Red Cross escalated its call for blood and platelet donors after a difficult Independence Day week for donations, officials said. More than 550 fewer blood drives were organized by businesses and other community groups than during a typical week as individuals across the country celebrated the holiday. This could equate to as many as 15,000 fewer donations than needed, causing donations to now be distributed to hospitals faster than they come in.

“Blood donations are currently being distributed to hospitals faster than donations are coming in, and more donations are needed now – especially type O – to replenish the blood supply,” Bernadette Jay, external communications manager said.

“It is crucial the Red Cross has a sufficient blood supply on hand to meet the needs of patients every day and to be prepared for emergencies that require significant volumes of donated blood products,” she said.

Pitt County and North Carolina are part of the Mid-Atlantic Blood Services regions, which also saw 552 fewer donations in June and 442 fewer donors in May. Within the Mid-Atlantic Blood Services Region, the Red Cross needs to collect 350 units daily to keep up with demand from local hospitals, Jay said. 

Last month, the Red Cross began contacting donors via phone, email, text, app and mail alerting them to the increased need for donations. We’re now at a point where alerting our media partners is prudent to help ensure blood is available for hospital patients.

“The blood supply fluctuates as donations come in and go out to help hospital patients every day of the week, and local blood supplies are similarly affected by fewer donations than what’s needed. The Red Cross monitors the blood supply on a daily basis and works with hospital partners to prioritize needs. As a national system and the nation’s single largest blood services provider, we strive to ensure blood products are available for all patients no matter where or when they need it,” Jay said. 

Blood is perishable and has a short shelf life. 

“It’s important to remember that blood is perishable and cannot be stockpiled in advance, but the Red Cross blood supply can be replenished when generous volunteers roll up a sleeve to give. We are working with our volunteer blood drive coordinators, generous donors and dedicated staff to do everything we can to overcome this blood emergency,” Jay said. 

Cally Edwards, executive director of the Red Cross’ Northeastern North Carolina Chapter, said that the national organization supplies blood to most hospitals. 

“We supply 40 percent of the nation’s blood supply,” Edwards said. “We are in an emergency appeal for blood donations because ... a lot of people are out vacationing and we see a tremendous drop in the amount of people that are able to come in and do regular donations.”

This need is especially critical for type O blood donors. Type O is the most in-demand blood type and often the first be depleted from hospital shelves during a shortage. Type O negative is the universal blood type and what emergency room personnel reach for when there is no time to determine the blood type of patients in the most serious situations. Type O positive is the most common blood type and can be transfused to Rh-positive patients of any blood type.

Kelsey Jones, 20, a nursing student from Raleigh donated Sunday afternoon at the Eastern Carolina Blood Donation Center on Red Banks Road. Jones’ blood type is Type 0 positive.

“This is so impactful,” Jones said.

As an aspiring nurse, Jones said this is another way she can help others. “I want to be a nurse because I get to help people, but as a citizen, giving blood allows me to help people too. This is something everyone can do,” Jones said.

The need for blood doesn’t take a vacation, officials said, as the number of emergency surgeries often increases during the summer.

“Each and every day, individuals across the country depend on blood and platelet donations for lifesaving treatments and emergency care, so it’s critical that people donate now to meet these needs,” Cliff Numark, senior vice president, Red Cross Blood Services.

“Whether you’ve never donated or give a couple of times a year, you’re needed to give as soon as possible to help save patient lives. Yours may be the donation a patient is counting on.”

Want to help?

■ The Eastern Carolina Blood Donation Center, 700 Cromwell Drive, will be open from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. today. Call 758-1140 for more information or visit www.redrossblood.org/locations/greenville-donation-center.

“We’d like people to give blood, whether it’s the first time or if they’ve donated in the past and would like to get started again. We have several drives throughout Eastern North Carolina. We always accept walk ins but appointments are recommended,” Edwards said. 

Contact Tyler Stocks at tstocks@reflector.com or 252-329-9566

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