By Charlie Reed
For the News-Gazette
The American Red Cross issued an urgent call this week for blood donations after a slump in blood drives during the Fourth of July holiday week.
Some 550 fewer blood drives were held last week compared to an average week.
“Blood donations are currently being distributed to hospitals faster than donations are coming in – we need both new and current blood donors to make an appointment as soon as possible to help patients battling illness and injury,” said Chris Hrouda, president of Red Cross Blood Services. “Unlike many other lifesaving medical treatments, blood donations cannot be manufactured and stockpiled. Red blood cells have a shelf-life of only 42 days and platelets just five days – Each donation, each day makes a difference.”
The summer season is traditionally a difficult time to collect enough blood to meet patient needs as high schools and college blood drives account for as much as 20 percent of donations during the school year.
To help spur blood donations in Central Florida, OneBlood – the Orlando nonprofit that supplies 200 hospitals in the region and throughout the southeast – has partnered with WaWa convenience stores for a weeklong blood drive at area locations that starts Sunday.
Donors get a $10 gift card for the store and a wellness check in the mobile donation site that includes blood pressure, iron count and a cholesterol screening.
Transfusion of blood and blood products helps save millions of lives every year. It can help patients suffering from life-threatening conditions live longer and with higher quality of life, and supports complex medical and surgical procedures. It also has an essential, life-saving role in maternal and childcare and during man-made and natural disasters.
Every day, blood and platelets are needed for accident and burn victims, heart surgery and organ transplant patients, and those receiving treatment for leukemia, cancer or sickle cell disease.
The Red Cross in June launched the Missing Types campaign, which runs throughout the summer, targeting new donors and those who have not given recently. As part of the campaign, the letters A, B, and O – letters used to identify blood types – disappeared from corporate logos, favorite brands, social media and frequently visited websites to illustrate the critical role every blood donor plays. Many may not realize just how important the letters are, but for a hospital patient who needs type A, B or O blood, those letters are a life-or-death matter. All blood types are needed to help ensure a sufficient blood supply is available for patients – especially type O negative and positive donors. Type O negative is the universal blood type and what emergency room personnel use when there is no time to determine the blood type a patient needs. Eligible donors with types O negative and positive are urged to make what the Red Cross calls 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. While the Missing Types campaign has helped activate thousands of new donors, the nation’s blood supply is critically low, according to the Red Cross. Individuals who are at least 16 years of age in most states, 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.